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Title: Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium
Author: Pope John Paul II
Date Published: March 2005
Price: 19.95 Hardcover
Comments: Autobiography of the pope's later years. Sequel to Rise, Let
Us Be On Our Way
Avg. Customer Review:
How this Pope was elected, April 4, 2005
Reviewer:Carolyn Rowe Hill "author of 'The Dead Angel" (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
With the death of Pope John Paul II, many are interested in finding out how
the process of electing a new pope works. While this book by the Pope is well
worth reading, I want to suggest to readers that they also buy (if you can find
it) or rent the movie, Shoes of the Fisherman, based on the book by Morris
West, which I have also read. This book, very loosely based on the person of
John XXIII, made into a movie in 1968 with Anthony Quinn, is about the election
of a new pope after the current one dies (circa 1963, the year Pope John died).
What is remarkable about the story is that a Russian, who had been imprisoned
in Siberia by communists for twenty years, becomes the new Pope. It is almost
prophetic regarding the election of Pope John Paul II, a Pole with a history
of fighting communism in his homeland. John Paul II wasn't elected until 15
years after the book was published, and 10 years after the movie was made.
There is much in the movie about the election with real footage of the people
of Rome and the world on the scene in St. Peter's Square; the black/white
smoke and the meaning of each; views inside the Vatican and the Conclave where
the Cardinals are sequestered during the election process, and much more. It's a
quick study in what is happening right now.
As a non-Catholic, but an admirer of the Pope and his stature in the world, I
find the movie very enlightening and learn more from it each time I watch it.
I also find what I learn from it to be very helpful in understanding other
works written about the Pope and by him, including this one.
Carolyn Rowe Hill
April 4, 2005
I took a college class many years ago offered in the philosophy department,
ethics. It was a much more fun class than I expected it to be, even though it
required reading some pretty heavy writing. The whole of ethics boiled down to
"what is happiness"? Seems simple enough, and I was surpassed by the great
number of writers the past 2000 years who had their own ideas for a "good life."
I wish I had Pope John Paul II Memory and Identity back then. It is almost
like a cliff notes, I was very surprised to see the Pope quote so many highly
regarded philosophers such as Kant and Descarte and Mill. He offered his
thoughts on their works.
In this book you will get more than "You need Faith." You will get more than
"How to." You will get answers to why the Church believes things they do. In
an hour with this book, I felt refreshed. It made me feel happy, it is a
wonderful book. It satisfies both the mind and the heart.
A conversation we can all have with a great Pope, April 3, 2005
Reviewer:C. Coffman (Sydney, Australia)
In the wake of John Paul II's exemplary death, the media is filled with many
accounts of people who had some brief, but memorable, personal contact with
this great Pope; invariably people who have had contact with the late Pope
report its enduring impact on their lives. But we can all have a meaningful
personal encounter with this great man and servant of God: his biographer George
Weigel delivered himself of the opinion some time ago that John Paul II's greatest
legacy may be writings. Weigel had in mind, I believe, John Paul II's
outstanding book THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY, but it is true of his last book MEMORY AND
IDENTITY, as well.
John Paul was not just a man of action and a great leader--although he was
one of the greatest in those respects--but a profound thinker. I am extremely
tempted to set out the thesis of MEMORY AND IDENTITY in this review, but the
book is only 190 pages, and I have no right to further condense the very brief,
and profound, last work of this great man.
I will only say that he begins the work by dealing directly with the problem
of good and evil--and as always with this Pope, he does so from a fresh and
optimistic perspective which is grounded in deep learning and reflection. It is
only in Chapter 23, interestingly a chapter that addresses issues relating to
modern Europe, that he reveals the meaning of the title MEMORY AND IDENTITY
and shows its profound significance.
One last comment: the book is presented in the form of a conversation, and it
is easy to read. But don't be misled into thinking that MEMORY AND IDENTITY
is a superficial interview. Every sentence is lapidary, almost scriptural in
the density with which meaning has been packed into the words. Yes, the book is
easy to read and will benefit anybody who does so, but it also will stand up
to very careful and close reading. To take only one example, the very brief
discussion on pages 169 - 170 in Chapter 24, "The Maternal Memory of the Church,"
while adequate in itself, refers back to the incredibly rich and profound
discussion in his 606 page book THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY. Readers can glean what
is easily available on the surface, or can go back for the riches that shine
through in layer after layer of this book.
A blessed memory, April 3, 2005
Reviewer:Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA)
This book is one of the most recent compilations of writings and
conversations with Pope John Paul II, the Polish-born pope who served as the third-longest
pope in history. It is entirely appropriate that the title of this book is
'Memory and Identity,' for each of these words both typify man who was Pope John
Paul II, and exemplify what we will carry forward from him as his legacy.
As a young man, the Pope endured many hardships, losing both his parents, and
enduring both Nazi and Soviet occupations of his beloved homeland. He talks
about all of these events with vivid memory, and they are very important pieces
of his identity. He is not free with terms such as 'evil' and 'destiny,' but
he does have strong convictions about what these things are, and shows how one
must work to endure against the odds toward the greater identity and peace
that God calls us to share.
Perhaps the most moving portion of this book for me is the record of the
conversation Pope John Paul II had with his would-be assassin; it is an example of
the character of the Pope that he should seek out this man and have not a
confrontation, but a conversation, and ultimately an absolution offered.
The pope was a many of strong theological conviction -- whether one agrees
with him or not, it is hard to dispute that there is some integrity to his
structure. Philosophically trained and pastorally guided, his theology strives to
connect the ancient and the modern, the past and the future. If it doesn't
always succeed to everyone's satisfaction, it isn't for want of effort. Some of
that effort is seen in the sections of this book on how the Enlightenment
philosophies that have so guided the modern world (the Declaration of Independence
in America, for example, is a classic Enlightenment document) and the Gospel
message can work together.
A remarkable book by a remarkable man, whose identity helped shape the world,
and whose memory will live on.
A Fascinating Glimpse into a Remarkable Mind, April 1, 2005
Reviewer:Mark D. Merlino (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada)
Memory and Identity is a very easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. In this
book, the Pope forcefully outlines his views on the themes of evil, freedom,
nationalism, contemporary Europe, democracy.
Memory and Identity begins with John Paul II's view on evil, which he e
xplains is overcome by Christ's redemption. In this discussion, he argues that
modern evil ideologies have their roots in Enlightenment philosophical thought.
Particular emphasis is placed on the fascist and Marxist worldviews. He expresses
concern that there may now be a new subtle and hidden ideology of evil intent
exploiting human rights against man and the family.
The next few chapters beautifully define freedom and express how the
principle of freedom should be applied in practice.
The Pope's then goes on to discuss the themes of nationality, patriotism, and
nationalism. In this discussion, he consistently uses Poland and Polish
national history to articulate his views. He then touches on topics such as
Poland's role in contemporary Europe, and Europe's relationship with the rest of the
The Pope also analyzes modern views of democracy and church-state relations.
In doing so he praises Enlightenment contributions to contemporary thought,
pointing out the Gospel origins of Enlightenment the ideals of liberty, equality
The book ends with a transcript of the Pope's discussion on his assassination
attempt. Most interesting is the Pope's recollection of his 1983 conversation
with Ali Agca, who couldn't understand why the attempt failed.
After reading this book, I felt as if I got to know the man on a personal
level, just as if I was having with a conversation with him. A good read.
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