“As March gave way to April in the spring of 2005 and the world kept vigil outside the apostolic palace in Rome, the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, then drawing to a poignant end, was already being described as one of the most consequential in two millennia of Christian history.”
With these words, world-renowned author and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel begins his long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. More than ten years in the making, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy tells the dramatic story of the Pope’s battle with communism in light of new and recently disclosed information and brings to a close Weigel’s landmark portrait of a man who not only left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, but also changed the course of world history.
When he was elected pope in the fall of 1978, few people had ever heard of the charismatic Karol Wojty³a. But in a very short time he would ignite a revolution of conscience in his native Poland that would ultimately lead to the collapse of European communism and death of the Soviet Union. What even fewer people knew was that the KGB, the Polish Secret Police, and the East German Stasi had been waging a dangerous, decades-long war against Wojty³a and the Vatican itself. Weigel, with unprecedented access to many Soviet-era documents, chronicles John Paul’s struggle against the dark forces of communism.
Moreover, Weigel recounts the tumultuous last years of John Paul’s life as he dealt with a crippling illness as well as the “new world disorder” and revelations about corruption within the Catholic Church. Weigel’s thought-provoking biography of John Paul II concludes with a probing and passionate assessment of a man who lived his life as a witness to hope in service to the Christian ideals he embraced.
About the Author
George Weigel is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Catholic Church and the author of the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. He is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News.
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