Pope John Paul II’s teachings will take centuries to fully explore and understand. That’s according to his official biographer, George Weigel.
“It’s going to be several hundred years before the Church really takes on board the breadth and depth of this man’s explication of the Gospel, and in that sense we’re going to be thinking, and arguing, about John Paul II for hundreds of years,” Weigel told the Catholic Herald on April 28.
The U.S. author devoted 15 years of his life researching his biographies “Witness to Hope” and “The End of the Beginning.” In that time he concluded that Pope John Paul was an “utterly normal human being” but one who was radically open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
“I think everything he did, as a literary man, as a philosopher, as a priest, a bishop, a statesman, a pope, grew out of his radical Christian discipleship,” he said.
“Very few of the billion Catholics in the world are going to have the range of talents that Karol Wojtyla had,” Weigel noted.
But “every baptised person has the opportunity to live a life of radical discipleship. And that’s our connection to him,” he said.
Weigel suggests that the most obvious legacy of Pope John Paul is the generation of young Catholics committed to Christian orthodoxy. “I look at my own parish in suburban Washington and see young couples raising Catholic families, who all took some form of inspiration from John Paul II. And I suspect this is replicated all over the world,” he said.
As for those who say the late Pope responded inadequately to priestly sex abuse cases that came to light late in his pontificate, Weigel said that criticism is off the mark. “The way to think about John Paul II and the priesthood is to recognise that he was a great reformer of the priesthood. The priesthood was in terrible shape in 1978 when he became pope; it was in remarkably better shape 26 years later. That’s the context,” he said.