Peter Hebblethwaite died Dec. 18, 1994. As the saying goes, we shall not see his like again. This book is a tribute to his memory by the staff of the National Catholic Reporter.
Three key aspects -- Jesuit priest, Vatican journalist and papal biographer -- overlapped to give Hebblethwaite intellectual and moral heft (for biographical details, see obituary on page 301). He resigned from the priesthood but the church remained his focus, one might say his passion. He was perhaps the world's leading Vaticanologist. His coverage of the papacy and the worldwide church for NCR has colored how a generation of Americans view those institutions.
Meanwhile, he wrote several books about popes and papacy, most notably biographies of John XXIII and Paul VI. Those were universally acclaimed as definitive studies.
A biography of Pope John Paul II and his church would, logically, have been Hebblethwaite's next major project, but time ran out.
Since the day Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, Hebblethwaite wrote hundreds of articles about him and his pontificate for NCR. This book contains a selection of the most significant pieces. Deprived of the advantages of hindsight, they may lack the cohesion and polish Hebblethwaite would have brought to a finished book, but they still constitute a comprehensive picture of the church of John Paul II.
It is intriguing to retrace the journey and see how quickly Hebblethwaite "read" the little-known Polish prelate who was about to become one of the most fascinating and controversial leaders of our age. Hebblethwaite's analysis of the man and pope, the trends and changes and atmosphere and power shifts and theological shifts sometimes seem almost prophetic. Hebblethwaite the former Jesuit steps back and sees it as an ongoing drama, with highs and lows and