John Paul II's 5th Book Due Out Next Week

"Memory and Identity" Surveys the 20th Century

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II's latest book, "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums," will go on sale next week, earlier than originally planned.



The Italian publisher, Rizzoli, announced that the book will be in stores by Wednesday.

It will be presented the day before by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office; and Paolo Mieli, editor of the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

The volume includes the Pope's reflections on the 1981 assassination attempt against him by Mehmet Ali Agca.

"Memory and Identity," in which the Holy Father addresses the most important issues connected with the 20th century, is the fruit of a long conversation he had in 1993 with two Polish philosophy professors, Krzysztof Michalski and Father Jozef Tischner, in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Michalski was a co-founder of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, thanks to the help of the philosopher and priest Father Tischner, who died in 2000 and whose friendship with the Pope dates back to his time in Krakow.

Michalski and Father Tischner "would ask the Holy Father questions and he would answer," explained Navarro Valls when presenting the volume last October at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The conversation was recorded and subsequently transcribed. The manuscript was kept for several years until the Pope reread it and decided to turn it into a book after making some corrections.

Among the topics the book touches on are democracy; human freedom; the concepts of nation, homeland and state; human rights; and Church-state relationships, said Navarro Valls.

The Pope focuses on the questions of life and 20th-century thought with intellectual rigor. "We must learn to go to the roots," he writes.

The Holy Father seeks out these roots and their relationship both with the tragedies of our recent past as well as with "the innumerable positive fruits" of the West, Navarro Valls said.

John Paul II writes on the ideologies of evil, National Socialism and Communism, and identifies their roots and the roots of the regimes they originated.

Likewise, he makes a theological and philosophical reflection on how the presence of evil often ends by being an invitation to do good.

"It so happens that evil, in certain moments of human existence, is revealed as useful. Useful in the measure that it creates an occasion to do good," writes the Pope.

John Paul II has been the first Pope to publish books commercially. "Memory and Identity" is the fifth book of his pontificate, and the third in two years.

Proceeds from the book will be allocated to the Holy Father's charities, Vatican sources told ZENIT.