Remembering popular Popes

These two little pamphlets, which come with prayer cards as well, are intended as aide memoires or introductions to two of the most important figures in the Church in the 20th Century. The long pontificate of John Paul was so complex that it needed an extra volume for the New Catholic Encyclopaedia to deal with it. And yet there are certainly those for whom John XXIII, even though the immediate humanity and humility of the man may have faded, remains the greater figure.

The council was not just important, it was epoch making. Sometimes doubts are cast on its effectiveness.

One is reminded of the old adage that Christianity can hardly be judged a failure, for it hasnít been tried yet. It may well be that much of what was hoped for back in the 1960s, but not fully achieved, will be realised in the present pontificate.

Pope John Paul had a different kind of appeal, immediate and tactile, for he was a man who could present himself to the world and inspire it. He was acclaimed as the Pope who hastened the end of Communism of Europe, though the results in Poland and the Ukraine, let alone other countries, have not been what may have been expected. When Mao was asked about the effect on history of the French Revolution he replied that ìit is too soon to tellî. So it is with these two great men: it is too soon to tell.

But the aim of these two well written short accounts will be to lead readers back not only to other biographies, but perhaps to such writings as Mater et Magisterand especially Pacem in Terris. The lives of Popes fade. Their writings last for ever. Or ought to.