Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Biographer to speak on 'soul' of pope

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

MOUNT WASHINGTON - Pope John Paul II has defined the papacy for his successors, says George Weigel, a papal biographer and a scholar in religion and culture.

"The job description has been developed because of this papacy," Weigel said. "The next pope will have to focus on the ministry of strengthening the brethren of Christians - the ministry of being there for people."

On Wednesday, Weigel, director of Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, will discuss Pope John Paul II at 7:30 p.m. at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Mount Washington. Weigel's talk is part of the Athenaeum's 175th anniversary lecture series.

The lecture, "The Soul of Pope John Paul II," will focus on how the Pope's interior life - his intellectual and spiritual passions - have guided him, Weigel said.

"This is a great souled man. All of his public accomplishments are because of that great soul," he said. "He has demonstrated the fact that radical faith, hope and love can change the course of human history in a way that no one else has."

Weigel has met with Pope John Paul II about 45 times, including most recently on Dec. 15. "He's always been very intellectually and spiritually astute, but I was quite struck by how much stronger he was physically than he had been in the past."

Weigel said the pope's history in Poland and the events that formed him as a young man have greatly influenced his 25-year pontificate, which makes studying his interior life interesting and important.

"This is a man who never stopped being himself," he said. "He was determined to be the type of pastor he was before he was pope."

That has made him a pope more accessible to the public than any before him.

Weigel, a Baltimore native whose works include Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II and 15 other books, said accessibility may be a great legacy.

"This man has been seen live by more people than any other in the history of the world," he said.

If you go

George Weigel will discuss Pope John Paul II on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary's Seminary, 6616 Beechmont Ave., Anderson Township.

Information: 231-2223.

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