John Paul II to Publish Book on Philosophy of History

"Memory and Identity" Due Next Spring

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II will release a new book, "Memory and Identity: Conversation Between Millenniums," next spring, says a Vatican spokesman.



Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, made the announcement Wednesday in Frankfurt, Germany.

The book will be published by the Italian publishing house Rizzoli, the Vatican Information Service confirmed today.

Rizzoli, which published the Pope's "Opera Omnia Filosofica," a volume of more than 1,000 pages, as well as other texts on literary criticism written by Karol Wojtyla, owns the world rights to the book. During the Frankfurt International Book Fair, now under way, there will be negotiations for its publication in other languages.

According to Navarro Valls, the book is a work on the philosophy of history in which the Pope considers topics such as modern democracy, liberty and human rights, the diverse concepts of nation, fatherland and the state, the more-than-functional relationship between nation and culture, the rights of man, and the relationship between church and state.

The common theme is one that characterizes all of John Paul's philosophical and literary works: the great mystery of man.

Navarro Valls said the book is a result of conversations the Pope had with two Polish friends, professors Josef Tishner and Krzystof Michalski, in his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo in 1993.

"The two intellectuals asked the Holy Father questions and he responded," said the director of the Vatican press office.

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.

Although the book refers to situations and facts on other continents, the Pope is primarily thinking of Europe, in the dynamism of ideas that sometimes remain latent over the centuries and that explain realities that would otherwise be inexplicable, Navarro Valls said.

Among the questions that the Pope addresses are themes on life and modern thought. The Holy Father answers these questions with intellectual rigor. "We must learn to go to the roots," he writes.

In "Memory and Identity," the Pope looks for these roots, and at his relationship to the terrible moments in recent history, as well as the "innumerable positive fruits" which have been the result of Western history.

The book makes the reader think about the great problem of finding the meaning of history, said Navarro Valls. From this point of view, the author makes an inestimable contribution to understanding the great historic questions of our age, the spokesman said.

Navarro Valls said that in the book John Paul II writes about the ideologies of evil, National Socialism and Communism, and explores their roots and the regimes that resulted.

In addition, he makes a theological and philosophical reflection about how the presence of evil often ends up being an invitation to do good.

"Sometimes evil, in certain moments of human existence, reveals itself as useful. Useful in the measure in which it creates an occasion to do good," says the Pope in an excerpt from the book.

In presenting the volume, Navarro Valls recalled that John Paul II has been the first Pope to have books published commercially. "Memory and Identity" is his fifth book, after "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," "Gift and Mystery," "Roman Triptych" and "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way."