Book Offers Glimpse of John Paul II "As He Was"

Compiles Spontaneous In-Flight Conversations With Journalists

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2011 ( A compilation of the in-flight interviews given by Pope John Paul II during his numerous trips around the world offers a unique glimpse of the Pontiff’s spontaneity and personality, says Cardinal Roberto Tucci.

The cardinal, who organized many of John Paul II’s trips, said this at the headquarters of Vatican Radio on Wednesday during the presentation of “Compagni di viaggio. Interviste al volo con Giovanni Paolo II” (Traveling Companions: In-flight Interviews With John Paul II), compiled by Italian journalist Angela Ambrogetti and published in Italian by Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Cardinal Tucci noted that the idea for the book is “brilliant,” given that the interviews, gathered from unedited recordings found in the archives of Vatican Radio, expose a side of John Paul II that isn’t revealed in the many addresses and homilies of his magisterium.

“The answers given to the journalists,” the cardinal explained, “show that John Paul II was not afraid of speaking with them, even when it was probable that they would ask questions that weren’t going to be easy.”

The conversations with the journalists also revealed, according to Cardinal Tucci, “the knowledge that the Pontiff had of the country he was visiting, either through briefings from the Secretariat of State, or through previous encounters with the bishops of the country.”

He noted that when the Pope was preparing for a trip, he never asked for details of the program, but rather “what I thought were the needs of that particular Church in this historical moment.”

Abundant material

In the forward to the book, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of Vatican Radio, explained that the book was made possible by the “truly systematic and nearly complete” documentation of even the “most spontaneous and brief addresses” of John Paul II.

The priest noted that, “even though it is thought that everything has already been said and published” about the Polish Pontiff, “this is not so. There are not a few materials that now can be rediscovered and used with greater time and attention.”

He said the current book, which focuses only on the recorded conversations with journalists during papal trips, “are some of the most interesting.”

Father Lombardi stated that these conversations, which were much more informal than those between journalists and Benedict XVI, were often “spontaneous,” and “made up of numerous brief comments.”

The Jesuit priest said that John Paul II appears in the book “as he was,” and one is able to witness “his extraordinary spontaneity and liberty of expression, with his goodness and direct style with others, including with this special group of human beings known as journalists.”

[With the contribution of Chiara Santomiero]

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Father Lombardi’s Preface: 

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