cover image The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism

The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism

George Weigel. Oxford University Press, USA, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-19-507160-3

``What Lenin started at Petrograd's Finland Station on April 16, 1917 . . . Pope John Paul II began to dismantle . . . on June 4, 1979'' with his celebration of the first pontifical Mass in a Communist country, an event Weigel ( Peace and Freedom ) views as the fulcrum of the Revolution of 1989. Quoting the likes of Polish Jewish dissident Adam Michnik to augment his thesis that the pope's 1979 visit to Poland was a ``national plebiscite'' which coalesced the ``we'' of society against ``them,'' Weigel argues that that pilgrimage was the turning point in the confrontation between Communism and Catholicism which he deems one of the great ideological and institutional struggles of the century. Disappointingly, he is more proselytizer than historian as he tracks the Vatican's ost pol i tik with the Kremlin going back to Pius XI, a significant subject that has yet to be comprehensively addressed. Most controversial are Weigel's defense of the Church's pro-life position on abortion and his criticism of the international peace movement for focusing on nuclear weapons rather than on human rights. Concentrating on Poland, with minor coverage of Czechoslovakia, Weigel recreates many stirring occasions, such as the ``Great Novena'' of 1957-1966 when the Church toured the frame of the revered Black Madonna in every parish instead of the icon itself, as planned, because the government kept that under house arrest at Czestochowa (the author does not explain why the Church was not forbidden to tour the frame as well). The novena ushered in the millennium celebration of Polish Christianity, a celebration the regime denied Pope Paul VI a visa to attend. (Nov.)