In His Latest Book, John Paul Rises to Yet Another Occasion

ROME — Rise, Let Us Be Going is the title of Pope John Paul II's latest book, a 200-page volume of memories and reflections on his life as a bishop from his consecration in Krakow, Poland, on Sept. 28, 1958, at age 38 to his election as Pope and Bishop of Rome on Oct. 16, 1978.

The book will be published in Italy on May 18, the Pope's 84th birthday.

The announcement was made March 24 during a press conference at Rome's Excelsior Hotel presided by two representatives of Mondadori, the book's Italian publisher, and Joaquín NavarroValls, director of the Holy See Press Office. In 1994 Mondadori published the Holy Father's book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

Rights to the new book are held by the Vatican Publishing House, which signed in the Pope's name a contract with Mondadori, which will oversee the publication in other major languages. John Paul is personally negotiating the rights for publication of the Polish edition in Poland.

Navarro-Valls said the Pope wrote the book in Polish last year between March and August, writing part of it by hand and dictating other parts. He said the Pope's busy schedule in the fall and winter months prevented him from having time to review or revise the book or to add something to it. But, he pointed out, the Holy Father reflects at great length when it comes to penning a piece, and as a result the final product — prose, poetry or a philosophical treatise — “needs little or no revision.”

The book's title, Rise, Let Us Be Going is taken from Jesus’ words in the Gospel according to Mark (14:42) when he speaks to Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to being arrested. For John Paul, this best expressed the essence of what it means to be a bishop, especially in the midst of trials: “’Rise, let us be going,’ we have work to do.”

“John Paul has written so many things on so many subjects for so many years,” Navarro-Valls said. “I'd like to say just one thing to those who have described this as his final book: I would not place a bet on that, knowing the Holy Father.”

He said it was his personal impression that the Pope was motivated to write this book because 2003 marked not only the 25th anniversary of his pontificate but also the 45th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

When in 1996, on the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination, the Pope wrote Gift and Mystery — recollections of his life as a priest and reflections on the priesthood — letters arrived from around the world, especially from bishops, telling the Pope how moving the book was and suggesting that he write recollections of his life as a bishop.

Rise, Let Us Be Going, Navarro-Valls said, is the compendium of those “recollections and reflections. This book is a perfect synthesis of biographical elements and the Pope's reflections on those events. He even writes at one point: ‘I am in search of the source of my vocation.’”

Natural Style

“The Holy Father's style,” Navarro-Valls said, “is narrative and reflexive, direct and very natural, just as he is. There are also many touches of his wonderful sense of humor. He tells of his experiences as a bishop on a human level, of his dealings with the communist authorities, of the difficulties of trying to build a brand-new church in Nowa Huta, of his many and varied ministries such as the pastoral ministry with men and women of science. One thing he repeats in the book is that everyone — men, women and children, the old and the young — always had easy access to him as bishop.”

Gian Arturo Ferrari of Mondadori Publishers said Rise, Let Us Be Going is filled with life, enthusiasm and vivacity.

“In addition,” Arturo said, “Pope John Paul gives us interesting little personal insights when he says things like, ‘I have always loved to sing.’”

Ferrari added that the “dynamic thrust” of the title itself, which indicates action and movement, mirrors the man and his ministry. He said Crossing the Threshold of Hope “was a vision of life,” and Rise, Let Us Be Going is “a book on life.”

Ferrari said more than 250,000 copies will be printed for the first edition, close to the 280,000 copies for the first printing of Crossing the Threshold of Hope, which since it publication has sold more than 20 million copies.

All profits from the sale of the 1994 book were earmarked by the Pope for the building of churches in the Balkans, including an Orthodox church. Moneys from the sales of the new book will all also go to the Pope's charities.

Joan Lewis works for Vatican Information Service.