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Pope's new book looks back at 20th century

Last week papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls visited the Frankfurt Book Fair to promote the Pope's latest book, a 200-page reflection on the ideological struggles of the 20th century and their significance to all believers.

Titled Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums, it is his third book in the space of two years. Like some of the pope's previous books, this one was more than a decade in gestation. Catholic News Service reports that in recent months, he has "returned to these unfinished projects with new focus, dictating changes and corrections to a Polish assistant".

The Italian publisher, Rizzoli, describes the latest work as "a historical and philosophical reflection on the use of freedom and its limits, on the concepts of homeland and nation, and on the Christian roots of Europe".

The idea for the book came together in 1993, when the late Fr Jozef Tischner, a fellow Pole and a philosopher in the pope's former Archdiocese of Krakow, proposed a series of conversations on the tumultuous events of the closing century -- including the rise and fall of Nazism, fascism and European communism.

The pope was happy to oblige, and the two were joined by another philosopher friend, Krzysztof Michalski. Their many hours of conversation were tape-recorded, then sat in a drawer. The Pope reportedly felt it was better to let the century end before drawing definitive judgments.

In the book, the Holy Father calls Nazism a form of "bestiality" whose true dimensions became known only after World War II.

"What we could see in those years was terrible enough. Yet many aspects of Nazism were still hidden at that stage," he said. "The full extent of the evil that was raging through Europe was not seen by everyone, not even by those of us who were living at the epicenter," he said.

The comment undoubtedly alludes to the fact that the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz was only 30 miles from Krakow, where the future pope was studying for the priesthood in a clandestine seminary.

"For a long time, the West did not want to believe in the extermination of the Jews. ... Not even in Poland did we know all that the Nazis had done," he said.

'Memory and Identity': In new book, pope looks back at 20th century (Catholic News Service 8/10/04)

Pope Seeks Publishers for New Book (Associated Press/ 7/10/04)
Pope John Paul's new book on philosophy of history unvailed (EWTN/CNA 7/10/04)
New Pope Book Says Communism Was 'Necessary Evil' (Reuters 7/10/04)

Pope wants Catholics to give "strong witness" in political life (Catholic News Agency 11/10/04)
Eucharist must move Christians to effective charity, Pope says (Catholic News Agency 11/10/04)
Year of the Eucharist an Invitation to Witness to Christ, Says Pope (Zenit 10/10/04)
Pope: Devotion to Eucharist can help heal ills of terrorism, poverty (Catholic News Service 8/10/04)
Papal audience tooks toward Year of the Eucharist (Catholic World News 11/10/04)

12 Oct 2004