MEMORY AND IDENTITY: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium

John Paul II, Author . Rizzoli $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8478-2761-9 ISBN 978-0-8478-2777-0

The pope's 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, sold some 20 million copies in more than 30 languages. Both that book and this one grew out of interviews conducted in the early 1990s, but the differences between them are significant. The interviewer for Threshold was an Italian journalist who focused on questions Catholic laypersons might ask; the interviewers for Memory were Polish professors of philosophy. Though advance publicity has focused on the pope's description of the 1981 attempt on his life and on several comments on abortion and homosexuality, most of the book is devoted to rigorous discussion—laced with quotations from the Bible, documents of Vatican II and his own poetry—about the nature of evil, especially as seen in Nazi and Communist regimes; the nature of freedom, with its concomitant responsibilities; and the challenges facing post-Enlightenment, secular Europe. Praising the medieval church and Thomist philosophy, condemning Cartesian self-sufficiency and modern "unbridled capitalism," the pope upholds tradition (memory) as the basis for individual, religious and national identity. His conclusion is characteristically optimistic: "The evil of the 20th century was... an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work." But "there is no evil from which God cannot draw forth a greater good. There is no suffering which he cannot transform into a path leading to him." (Mar. 27)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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