George Weigel's bestselling biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, set the standard by which all portraits of the modern papacy are now measured. With God's Choice, he gives us an extraordinary chronicle of the rise of Pope Benedict XVI as well as an unflinching view of the Catholic Church at the dawn of a new era.
When John Paul II lapsed into illness for the last time, people flocked from all over the world to pray outside his apartment. He had become a father figure to millions in a world bereft of strong paternal examples, and those millions now felt orphaned. After more than twenty-six years of John Paul II's guidance, the Catholic Church is entering a new age, with its bedrock traditions intact but with pressing questions to address in a rapidly changing world. Beginning with the story of John Paul's final months, God's Choice offers a remarkable inside account of the conclave that produced Benedict XVI as the next pope, drawing on George Weigel's unrivaled access to this complex event.
Weigel also incisively surveys the current state of the Church around the world: its thriving populations in Africa, Latin America, and parts of the post-communist world; its collapse in western Europe; its continued struggles in Asia; and the vibrancy of many aspects of Catholic life in the United States, even as the Church in America struggles to overcome its recent experience of scandal.
Reflecting on John Paul II's greatness, drawing on firsthand interviews to paint an intimate portrait of the new Pope, and boldly assessing the Church's current condition, God's Choice is an invaluable book for anyone seeking to understand the Catholic future and the larger human future the Church will help to shape.
The biographer of Pope John Paul II (Witness to Hope) chronicles the transition between John Paul's papacy and that of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, in this blend of history, biography, analysis and forecasting. Readers familiar with John Paul's papacy will be tempted to skip over the first three chapters summarizing the late pope's life, plunging instead into what Weigel has to say about the new pontiff and how he was elected in one of the shortest conclaves in papal history. Of particular interest is Weigel's diary of the conclave, which combines his own observations with those of journalists, Vatican officials and cardinal-electors, none of whom, he attests, violated the oath of confidentiality in talking with him. His insights into Benedict are compelling and defy the caricature of the former cardinal as "God's Rottweiler." In a look toward the future church Benedict has the potential to shape, Weigel suggests the new pope is not likely to bring about revolutionary change in the area of liturgy and theological dissent, but could introduce reforms in such areas as Vatican diplomacy, the curial structure and the selection of bishops. The author's access to sources in and around the Vatican paired with his accessible writing style make this good reading for a broad audience.