Memory and Identity. John Paul II.

By Pope John Paul II

Printed: 2005

Publisher: Weidenfield & Nicolson. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 15 × 23 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 15 x 23 x 2

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In the original dustsheet. Purple cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

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A great book from a fantastic man which all should read and learn from.

Remarkable autobiographical meditation by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, addressing particularly the effect of 20th-century totalitarianism on His beliefs.

Reflecting on the most challenging issues and events of his turbulent times, Pope John Paul II reveals his personal thoughts in a truly historic document. The world’s greatest communicator offers a moving insight into his intellectual and spiritual journey and pastoral experience. Each chapter suggests the answer to a question which either exercised his mind or which he provoked in discussion with laymen and priests. Using the encounters at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo where conversations took place with leading intellectuals – philosophers as well as theologians – Pope John Paul II addresses in his book many of the questions which arose from these discussions. Here he leaves for posterity an intellectual and spiritual testament in an attempt to seek the answer to defining problems that vex our lives. The book ends with the Pope’s first ever published comments on the assassination attempt upon his life in 1981. The conversational tone and form of this book indicates to the reader that this is not an academic thesis, more of a friendly talk. Each chapter is, as it were, the answer to a question which many of us carry in our heads or hearts.


——   I like my Popes intellectual. I like them citing Aristotle, Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Sartre and Dostoevsky…. It is gratifying, in this volume of conversations with Pope John Paul II to be treated to philosophical cogitation… John Paul II has long reflected upon such big ideas as freedom and responsibility, love and redemption, totalitarianism, capitalism and the nature of evil…. His account of surviving the assassin’s bullet is both touching and human. (MARY KENNY NEW STATESMAN)

——-   The 11 pages in Memory and Identity which deal with the assassination attempt are the most compelling in the book… Every detail is welcome. (CHRISTOPHER HOWSE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

——–    This could very well be his last will and testament. (PETER STANFORD SUNDAY TIMES)

——-    What this short memoir will do is establish a dialogue with scholars long after he is dead. (THE OBSERVER)

——-   Whether this book is the Holy Father’s valedictory is in surer hands than ours; his mind and his passion for truth are demonstrably undimmed. This book, in fact, may well serve as an introduction to his thought and teaching as a coda to it. For his spiritual vision, as well as all his other startling qualities, he is by anyone’s standards the outstanding figure of our age. (CATHOLIC HERALD)

——  Philosophical and theological ideas feature but the style is more that of a reflective sermon. (THE SCOTSMAN)

——    This topical book will appeal to many as millions pay their last respects… this book manages to engage the reader with its informal style. (THE SUN)

——    Takes us further into the recesses of the late Pope’s mind than any previous book. (DAMIAN THOMPSON (Editor in chief, Catholic Herald) IRISH INDEPENDENT)

—— A philosopher by inclination… a creative man, both poet and playwright and his philosophical musings are thus the product of an energetic mind and an assured pen. (THE HERALD)

——- How clever of veteran publisher, George Weidenfeld to persuade his friend Pope John Paul II to write his “final testament”. The late Holy Father’s deeply felt reflection on culture and national identity calls to each nation of Europe: preserve your heritage and bind it to Christ, as it has always been in the past. (WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL MAGAZINE)


Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was later canonized as Pope Saint John Paul II.

In his youth, Wojtyła dabbled in stage acting. He graduated with excellent grades from an all-boys high school in Wadowice, Poland, shortly before the start of World War II in 1938. During the war, to avoid being kidnapped and sent off to a German slave labor camp, he signed up for work in harsh conditions in a quarry. Wojtyła eventually took up acting and developed a love for the profession and participated at a local theater. The linguistically skilled Wojtyła wanted to study Polish at university. Encouraged by a conversation with Adam Stefan Sapieha, he decided to study theology and become a priest. Eventually, Wojtyła rose to the position of Archbishop of Kraków and then a cardinal, both positions held by his mentor.

Wojtyła was elected pope on the third day of the second papal conclave of 1978 (becoming one of the youngest popes in history), which was called after John Paul I, who had been elected in the first papal conclave of 1978 earlier in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after 33 days. Wojtyła adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him. John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in the 16th century, as well as the third-longest-serving pope in history after Pius IX and St. Peter. John Paul II attempted to improve the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism, Islam, and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the spirit of ecumenism, holding atheism as the greatest threat. He maintained the Church’s previous positions on such matters as abortion, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and a celibate clergy, and although he supported the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he was seen as generally conservative in their interpretation. He put emphasis on family and identity, while questioning consumerism, hedonism and the pursuit of wealth. He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,344, and also canonized 483 people, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated many of the world’s bishops, and ordained many priests. He has been credited with fighting against dictatorships for democracy and with helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and the rest of Europe. Under John Paul II, the Catholic Church greatly expanded its influence in Africa and Latin America, and retained its influence in Europe and the rest of the world.


           US President Ronald Reagan meeting with Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Vatican City, 1982

On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor, Benedict XVI, and was beatified on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday). He was canonized on 27 April 2014, together with John XXIII. Posthumously, he has been referred to by some Catholics as “Pope St. John Paul the Great”, although the title has no official recognition. He has been criticised for allegedly condoning the sexual abuse of children by priests in Poland as archbishop, though the allegations themselves are criticized.

Under John Paul II, the two most important constitutions of the contemporary Catholic Church were drafted and put in force: the Code of Canon Law which, among many other innovations, began the effort to curb sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, among its features, explaining and clarifying the Church’s position on homosexuality.

About the Author – Born Karol Wojtyla in 1920, His Holiness Pope John Paul II was ordained a priest in 1947. He was created a cardinal in 1967. He became Pope on 16th October 1978. Pope John Paul II has already published several monographs straddling theology, philosophy and social policy. He has written plays and poetry, a special account of his pastoral experience in Krakow and collections of sermons delivered in far-flung countries.

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