The eventual successor to Pope Francis will face uncharted territory, writes papal biographer and Catholic theologian George Weigel in his new book, THE NEXT POPE: THE OFFICE OF PETER AND A CHURCH IN MISSION. Yet the Catholic Church’s experiences during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis suggest a clear path toward a vibrant Catholic future.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center and New York Times bestselling author of two dozen books, including the two volumes of his internationally acclaimed biography of Pope St. John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning, and his memoir, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II.
Public fascination with the papacy and the pope is a relatively new development, explains Weigel, and only began with Pope Pius XI (1846-1878). In the 21st-century world, however, the pope matters: and not only to Catholics but to world leaders, Christians, Jews, and people of all faiths and none. As someone who has been in conversation with every pope of the last four decades, and who has worked with Catholics from every continent, Weigel offers a unique perspective on the future of the world’s largest Christian community and the challenges its leadership must confront and meet in THE NEXT POPE.
The next pope, Weigel writes, will not have been a Catholic leader during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its immediate aftermath, experiences that significantly shaped the thinking of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Yet he will must lead the Church through the turbulence of the epochal transition Vatican II accelerated: the transition from Counter-Reformation Catholicism to the Church of the New Evangelization, in which every Catholic is a missionary and every place is mission territory.
Drawing lessons from the pontificates of Pope Francis and his two immediate predecessors, THE NEXT POPE offers an action agenda for the man who will sit in the Chair of Peter and for the Church he will lead deeper into the 21st century: an agenda of fidelity to the Holy Spirit’s call to renewed evangelical witness, intensified missionary fervor, and Christ-centered Church reform.