.- Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II’s most recent book, was presented yesterday evening at a press conference in Rome's Palazzo Colonna. Some of those present included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, and Paolo Mieli, editor of the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera," which is published by the Rizzoli group which also produced the Italian edition of the Pope's book.
Navarro-Valls told those gathered that the book is a result of conversations the Pope had with two Polish philosophers, Josef Tishner and Krystof Michalski, in his summer residence at Castelgandolfo in 1993.
He noted that the conversations were recorded and later transcribed. The manuscript was saved for some years until the Pope read it and decided to make it into a book after having made some corrections.
Navarro-Valls continued, "In his book, John Paul II does not reflect on cosmic evil, that is, on catastrophes and tragedies, but on the evil that derives from human behavior."
"It could be said that this is a book about the theology of history. The Pope does not wish to guess at or define the place that events occupy in the divine plan, or to decipher the ways of Providence. When he writes about the ideologies of evil, national socialism, and communism, he explores their roots and the regimes that resulted.”
He also undertakes a theological and philosophical reflection about how the presence of evil often ends up being an invitation to good."
In the closing pages of the book, the Pope describes the attempt on his life of May 13, 1981. Navarro-Valls commented that this is "not a mere addendum, although the style is different from the rest of the book; they have the tone of one speaking about a directly lived experience.”
“The Pope”, he said, “opens his heart and explains how he experienced - and experiences - that evil." In a dialogue with his private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope recalls each moment from when he was shot, to his arrival at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, his recovery, his pardon of would-be assassin Ali Agca and his visit to him in prison.
Cardinal Ratzinger discussed how the Pope speaks of Agca as the "victim of a logic that is, from every point of view, flawed. He is a Muslim, and perhaps also for this reason he fell into a spiral of fear from which he has never recovered because he continues to believe he is a part of some premonition contained in the third secret of Fatima.”
“But over and above these considerations,” the cardinal said, “Agca has never asked himself about what he did, the plain fact of the attempt on the Pope's life has never distressed him. His only real concern is that he missed his target."
Ratzinger said the would-be assassin had written to him frequently to ask if the mystery of Fatima contains an answer. "But as is well-known, Agca's only link with Fatima is the date of May 13, and his reflections are limited to this level."
In Memory and Identity, the Holy Father recalls the attack of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York, the attacks of May 11, 2004 in Madrid, and the massacre of Beslan, Russia, in September 2004.
"Rereading the transcripts of the conversations (of 1993)," he writes, "I note that expressions of violence have reduced considerably" since the 1970s, "yet so-called 'networks of terror' have spread throughout the world, and constitute a constant threat to the lives of millions of innocents."
The Pope poses the question, "Where will these new eruptions of violence lead us?"
Memory and Identity is 200 pages long and has been published in 11 languages. It is John Paul II's fifth book. In 1994, he published Crossing the Threshold of Hope, in 1996 Gift and Mystery, in 2003 a book of poetry entitled Roman Triptych and finally in 2004 Arise, Let us be Going.
The new book is expected to be released in English soon.