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The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Image (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524803
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Evidently, 1,000 pages were not enough space to adequately survey the life of Pope John Paul II in Weigel’s biography, Witness to Hope (1999). Although the three sections in this work are designed to supplement that earlier one, only the first takes a thematic approach. The theme explored is communism and covers four decades of John Paul’s life, before and during his papacy. The pope’s struggle against communism was covered sporadically in Witness but without as much detail or behind-the-scenes glimpses as there are here. The last event recorded in the earlier book was the Great Jubilee of 2000, five years before the pontiff’s death. The final years of John Paul’s papacy are covered in the second section, while the third is strictly reflective. The key question here is, What will Pope John Paul II be remembered for? Weigel explores numerous angles to his legacy, including his personal character and a strong spirit of ecumenism. A solid wrap. --Wade Osburn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Praise for The End and the Beginning
“The author of the landmark Witness to Hope has now finished the story he began so brilliantly. In his new book, George Weigel–biographer and theologian–details John Paul II's battle against totalitarianism and chronicles the Holy Father's humble acceptance of suffering at the end of earthly life. As ever, Weigel writes with confidence, clarity, and insight.”
– Jon Meacham, Editor of Newsweek and Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of  American Lion
“The saga of John Paul the Second is now complete; unveiled with a grace and eloquence that only George Weigel could summon. Here is the final act of a life of "serenity and adventure," told from the inside. The personal drama of John Paul's last days and his heroic public acts in the face of incredible obstacles, both move and inspire. For anyone who cares about the witness of faith and the mysterious power of suffering, this work is not to be missed. Weigel has given us a biography as luminous and lasting as the life it captures.”
– Raymond Arroyo, New York Times Bestselling Author of Mother Angelica and host of EWTN's "The World Over" 
“We’ve been awaiting it for a decade – since his acclaimed Witness to Hope – and George Weigel’s The End and the Beginning is well-worth the wait! It is impossible to comprehend fully the twentieth century without considering John Paul II, and it is difficult to appreciate him without plunging into this book, an enjoyable task indeed.”
– Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
“Weigel has written what can only be described as an unforgettable book – a portrait of Karol Wojtyla, his Church and his times that vividly captures one of the central characters of the last 100 years. Compellingly written, rich in drama and exhaustive in its research, this is the definitive work on the life and legacy of the Polish Pope, and a crowning sequel to Weigel’s Witness to Hope.”
 – Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver
“This magnificent sequel to George Weigel's Witness to Hope includes a compelling account of John Paul II's last years as well as an insightful assessment of the great Pope's legacy.  But the most fascinating section of the book is a detailed and well-documented study of John Paul's long struggle against Communism, from his days as a seminarian through the dramatic events of the 1980's.  Throughout this study, Weigel's intellectual acuity, his fine prose style, and his passion for the church are on clear display.  If there was any doubt on the matter, The End and the Beginning proves that George Weigel is the great singer of the song of Karol Wojtyla.”
– Robert Barron, The Catholicism Project
“In this sequel to Witness to Hope, George Weigel has put the final touches on his definitive portrait of John Paul the Great. With the aid of newly available material, he has filled out his account of Wojtyla's role in the demise of European communism with the story of the relentless campaign that Soviet-era operatives were waging against their feared Polish antagonist in those years. With his insights into Vatican diplomacy, his portrayal of the aging pontiff's struggles with challenges to the Church in the postmodern world, and his judicious assessment of his subject's spiritual and intellectual legacy, Weigel  has given us yet another masterpiece of biography.”
– Mary Ann Glendon, Professor of Law, Harvard University and Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 
“Here is the story in full of a life lived in fullness. George Weigel completes the work begun in Witness to Hope. He spells out the significance of a supremely significant life. John Paul II was a pope not just for our time, but for the ages. His closing years offered a renewed witness with very public deeds of love and suffering. Yet this is not an exercise in nostalgia. Weigel doesn't shrink from the charges of the pontiff's critics, and he provides a courageous analysis of the man's handling of the Church's sexual and financial scandals. It's difficult to predict how history will judge our contemporaries. In this case, though, Weigel makes it abundantly clear.”
– Dr. Scott Hahn, Nationally Bestselling Author of Signs of Life and The Lamb’s Supper
“This book is the Rosetta Stone of John Paul II's life and legacy. Only George Weigel's masterful combination of rare opportunities and rarer intuitive skill could do justice to John Paul II's epic life that changed the world.  If you really want to know John Paul II and his legacy, The End and the Beginning is indispensable reading.  More than a sequel to Witness to Hope, this is the climax – an interpretive key like no other.”
– Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight and Chief Executive Officer of the Knights of Columbus and New York Times Bestselling Author of Civilization of Love and Our Lady of Guadalupe
“George Weigel has already given the world the definitive biography of Pope John Paul II, and this is an indispensable second volume. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the man and the Church he led for a quarter-century.”
– John L. Allen Jr., author of The Future Church
“As a young man, Karol Wojtyla studied drama, but the greatest human drama of the second half of the twentieth century is the story of his life, his calling, his pontificate.  George Weigel draws upon his immense personal knowledge and his finely tuned sense of history to describe the last act of John Paul’s life and offer a balanced and appreciative review of the play.  This is a book for everyone who wants to be informed about the life of the Catholic Church in recent times, but those who knew and loved the late Pope are especially in Weigel’s debt.”
– Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago
“Those of us who waited expectantly for the sequel to George Weigel’s towering biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, now have every reason to celebrate the appearance of The End and the Beginning. Few modern biographers accomplish the likes of Weigel’s achievement, so evident in these volumes.”
– Most Reverend Edwin F. O’Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore 

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Weigel tells the story of Pope John Paul II from within.
Iosephus Sebastianus
Holiness is not for sissies and wimps, but for every man and woman who dares to answer the call of God with a perfect "Yes, I will serve".
Teófilo de Jesús
Thoroughly researched, well-written, can be read in gulps or straight through or browsed.
Elisabeth Bolduc

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. Derby VINE VOICE on September 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Writers often disappoint when they return to address topics they have covered in the past. Nobody for example thinks that "The Dangerous Summer" is anywhere nearly as good as the other works Hemingway wrote on Spain. George Weigel's "Witness to Hope" was a wonderful and insightful biography of John Paul II. Now, a decade after that book, Weigel returns to cover the pope's last years and the legacy in "The End and the Beginning."

Drawing on newly opened archives pertaining to the intelligence departments of Communist countries, Weigel is able to offer great insight into their attempts to malign the Church in general and John Paul II in particular. Weigel also offers an unforgettable portrait of the last years of John Paul. Readers will find parts of it moving, especially as Weigel offers a poignant take on the pope's declining health. As he had in "Witness to Hope," Weigel is able to provide insight on John Paul as he understands the turbulent history of Poland in the 20th century which is essential to understanding the late Holy Father.

Weigel offers a very weak take on an issue that he differed from both John Paul II and Benedict XVI on--American intervention in Iraq. Weigel seems content to offer snide comments on the Holy See's opposition to the Iraq War such as "uncoordinated (and sometimes unintelligible)." He also whitewashes parts of it. For example, Weigel does not bring up his fellow Catholic neoconservative Michael Novak who tried to put American intervention in Iraq in Catholic terms--only to be swatted down by the Vatican when he went to Rome. All Weigel can do is offer a lame extended quote from Italian journalist Sandro Magister that John Paul II was not condemning the war constantly or calling it un-Christian. This will not do.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Parochus on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Without a doubt, Weigel had to finish what he had started with "Witness to Hope"; he promised the Holy Father that he would. But this book is not merely the continuation of a narrative. Fascinatingly enough, Weigel was able to obtain access to information detailing precise information about the how Communist authorities attempted to infiltrate, influence and corrupt the work of John Paul II in his mission to bring freedom to Poland, and ultimately to much of the Eastern bloc. They key word here is "attempted." More than a biography, I think this book qualifies as a "page turner." Truth is much more exciting than fiction. That's what JPII believed (I love that he used to annotate things "JPII"), and that's what this book delivers.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dionysius on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When Weigel published "Witness to Hope" in 1999, six very productive years still remained in John Paul's pontificate, and now five years after John Paul's death, that story has finally been told in full. But more than that, the opening of secret archives which reveal the extent of the Polish Communist regime's fear and loathing both of the Catholic Church and of Karol Wojtyla allows Weigel to explore previously unknown territory and to explain more fully John Paul's place in history, both as a foe of the poisonous ideology of Communism and as the greatest evangelist of the Christian Gospel in many centuries. And more to point, with a deft combination of the disciplines of history, theology, political philosophy, and biography, Weigel explains that it was precisely Wojtyla's faith in the Lord Jesus and his skill as an evangelist that made him such a deadly foe to Communism. Anyone who wants to understand either the present shape of Catholic Christianity or the end game of the deadly ideological conflicts of the 20th century should read this book deeply.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael Degnan on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Whether one likes or dislikes his teaching, Karol Wojtyla is one of the central figures of the 20th and early 21st centuries. And for good reason: It will be a long time before any world religious leader rivals his combination of intellect, energy, vision and wisdom learned from his personal experience of war and repression. This biography is really the crowning achievement of George Weigel's career. It's elegantly written, thoroughly researched and a vividly engaging portrait of Wojtyla and his legacy; a worthy conclusion to the story begun in Weigel's "Witness to Hope."

We often learn best from the lives of other people. Weigel has chronicled with uncommon skill one of the pivotal lives of our age.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michal Jastrzebski on January 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was originally reluctant to get this book since I feared (based on some of the reviews and comments) that this was going to be an inferior version of Weigel's "Witness To Hope". But ultimately I bought it and I am very glad I did, in some aspects I actually prefer this book over the other one - it is perhaps shorter on theology and longer on politics (suites me just fine), the author shares with us wealth of data based on the cold war files and in places it reads like a spy novel. The topic of the Russian Orthodox church, so important to JPII, is treated in depth, which butts another touchy subject - the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church, this book weaves through this whole explosive cocktail with ease. Also cardinal Casaroli and his Ostpolitik gets in depth treatment, I have to say he was a peculiar fellow. The book doesn't have the volume nor weight of the "Witness" but in some aspects it more than compensates this with very intelligently collected and presented material that had not seen daylight before.
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