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About the Author: George Weigel is President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC. A graduate of St. Mary's Seminary and University of Baltimore and the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto, he is the author of editor of twelve books on religion and public life, and is in frequent demand as a lecturer, columnist, and media commentator on American politics, foreign policy, and Catholic affairs.
``What Lenin started at Petrograd's Finland Station on April 16, 1917 . . . Pope John Paul II began to dismantle . . . on June 4, 1979'' with his celebration of the first pontifical Mass in a Communist country, an event Weigel ( Peace and Freedom ) views as the fulcrum of the Revolution of 1989. Quoting the likes of Polish Jewish dissident Adam Michnik to augment his thesis that the pope's 1979 visit to Poland was a ``national plebiscite'' which coalesced the ``we'' of society against ``them,'' Weigel argues that that pilgrimage was the turning point in the confrontation between Communism and Catholicism which he deems one of the great ideological and institutional struggles of the century. Disappointingly, he is more proselytizer than historian as he tracks the Vatican's ost pol i tik with the Kremlin going back to Pius XI, a significant subject that has yet to be comprehensively addressed. Most controversial are Weigel's defense of the Church's pro-life position on abortion and his criticism of the international peace movement for focusing on nuclear weapons rather than on human rights. Concentrating on Poland, with minor coverage of Czechoslovakia, Weigel recreates many stirring occasions, such as the ``Great Novena'' of 1957-1966 when the Church toured the frame of the revered Black Madonna in every parish instead of the icon itself, as planned, because the government kept that under house arrest at Czestochowa (the author does not explain why the Church was not forbidden to tour the frame as well). The novena ushered in the millennium celebration of Polish Christianity, a celebration the regime denied Pope Paul VI a visa to attend. (Nov.)
"The spiritual dimension had been largely overlooked in accounting for the Revolution of '89. No longer. Weigel's brilliant demonstration of the relationship between faith and revolution gives us a new window on the miracle of '1989.'"-Charles Krauthammer "If a disconsolate KGB agent were looking for an explanation as to why Communism fell apart so fast, he would probably turn first to the Vatican and to the first Polish Pope. George Weigel has done some very useful sleuthing to help us figure out how something of a miracle was actually pulled off."-E.J. Dionne, Jr. "Argues the primacy of the spirit."-The Washington Times "An extremely interesting, important contribution to the greatest mystery of the century: how Communism collapsed and 'who done it.'"-Jeane Kirkpatrick "George Weigel's analysis of the 1989 revolution in Central and Eastern Europe offers evidence that it was the power of nonviolent force and citizens' conscience, not the guns and bombs of warfare, that ended Sovietism."-Washington Post Book World "An incisive historical reconstruction that is as spiritually uplifting as it is politically significant."-Zbigniew Brzezinski