HarperCollins has begun its international rollout for Life: My Story Through History, a new book by Pope Francis that HC acquired global rights to last fall. The book hit shelves in the U.S. and Canada this week and should be in all of HC’s English-language markets by the end of the week, said Judith Curr, publisher of HarperOne, which is overseeing the English-language publication of Life.

Emily Martin, senior director of international publishing, and Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer and CEO, International Foreign Language, are overseeing Life’s rollout in overseas markets that include Italy, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and South America.

Laura Donnini, managing director of HarperCollins Italia, negotiated the agreement with Fabio Marchese Ragona, journalist for the Italian media company Mediaset, who wrote the book with the Pope; Ragona serves as the narrator of the story and describes the historical context in which the Pope lived.

The book received an unofficial launch this past weekend when four HC executives travelled to the Vatican to present Pope Francis with copies of the book, developed by eight HC worldwide teams. “Pope Francis was very into it,” Curr said, adding that the Pope signed one book for each country represented at the Vatican. The release date was also the Pope’s idea, Curr said, as March 19 marked the 11th anniversary of his pontification—and comes less than two weeks before Easter. “We had about three months to do all the translations,” Curr noted.

An audiobook, narrated by Stephen Colbert and Franciscan friar and priest John Quigley, was also released with the hardcover. A Spanish-language edition of Life, to be distributed in all North American countries, will be published in the next few weeks, Curr added.

Ahead of the HC executives’ trip to Rome, excerpts from the Life, were published in the Italian daily Corrierre della Sera March 14. In an Associated Press story based on those excerpts, the AP reports that the Pope has no plans to resign and doesn’t have any health issues that would force him to do so. However, in light of the late Pope Benedict’s historic decision to retire in 2013, Pope Francis said he has written a letter of resignation, but stresses it is a “distant possibility.”

In the book, the Pope also defends the many changes he has brought to the Catholic Church against criticism from conservative church members. (A PW review of Life, which was embargoed, is forthcoming).

Though not a memoir, Life also features the Pope’s recollections of important global events, beginning with the outbreak of World War II. In addition to the Corriere della Sera and AP stories, the release of the book has been generating news in other parts of the world as well, since it presents the Pope's views on major current issues in one place for the first time.

“It is important this type of book now exists,” Curr said.