WASHINGTON — George Weigel was honored Oct. 22 with the Blessed John Paul II Award for the New Evangelization for his work investigating the life and work of the late pope.
Within modern society, the challenges of “coldness, unreality, religious freedom,” Weigel explained during his acceptance speech, “can seem overwhelming.”
However, he continued at the Oct. 22 awards dinner, martyrs and pilgrimage sites “remind us — don’t quit.”
“Christ has won the victory, so we can carry on in good spirits, as John Paul II did until the end of his life.”
The second-annual Blessed John Paul II Award Dinner for the New Evangelization was hosted by the Catholic Information Center in Washington, which bestowed upon papal biographer Weigel its highest honor.
The Catholic Information Center is a nonprofit affiliate of the Archdiocese of Washington and provides a number of cultural and intellectual events for Catholics in the Washington area.
Also speaking at the dinner were Laura Ingraham, master of ceremonies; Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., who gave the opening benediction; and Father Arne Panula, director of the Catholic Information Center.
Weigel, who is known for his biographical work on John Paul II’s life, centered his discussion on the late pope’s visit to the Holy Land in 2000.
During his visit to the Holy Land, Pope John Paul II “wanted to carry the entire Church to the places of salvation history,” Weigel explained, so that the Church could viscerally encounter “the stuff of God become man, God entering into history for the salvation of the world.”
He explained that, in the historical biblical places of the Holy Land, “real people … became friends of Jesus of Nazareth, and they met him at Easter and after as the risen Lord.”
From their friendship with Christ, “they went out to change the world.”
Pointing to the first pope, Peter, Weigel noted that the apostle was “radically transformed” by his encounter with Christ and went from being “a probably illiterate, probably smelly guy from east of nowhere, as the world then understood so,” to the first pope and recipient of “the world’s greatest tombstone.”
“What the Catholic Church bears,” Weigel said “is the Truth of the world,” and it is this encounter with the Truth through Christ that transformed the world.
In order to re-introduce the world to the “Bible’s view of the human story,” he said, “John Paul II carried us all back to Jerusalem, back to the Holy Land.”
“He carried us back to the Holy Land,” so that we would be inspired and tell our story of “friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
‘The Challenge of Coldness’
This reintroduction to “a biblical optic on the world, I think, helps us to meet the challenge of coldness” in the world, Weigel continued.
A biblical worldview “helps us meet the challenge of unreality,” posed by “a culture of a new gnosticism, where everything is plastic and malleable, anything goes.”
However, even in the midst of challenging times, those who know Christ have reason to hope.
“Christians are the people who know how the story is going to turn out. Portrayed in the 21st chapter of Revelation, the end of the story, the end of the human story, is the wedding feast of the Lamb,” Weigel said.
“That is why we too can be not afraid, and we go on with business as Pope John Paul taught us.”