Cover image for John Paul II : a personal portrait of the pope and the man
John Paul II : a personal portrait of the pope and the man
Flynn, Raymond.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xv, 204 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : portraits ; 22 cm
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BX1378.5 .F58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Drawing on years of personal interaction with the pope, and on his unique understanding of the intersection of religion and politics, former U.S. ambassador to the vatican and mayor of Boston Ray Flynn shows how John Paul II changed the papacy, perhaps forever.Unlike any other pope, and indeed, unlike any other person, John Paul II has reached out, creating dialogue or creating uproar, but always striving to unite the human community. Flynn (with co-authors Robin Moore and Jim Vrabel) gives an intimate, compelling, and comprehensive portrait of John Paul II's controversial papacy, from his origins in Poland to his impact on the American people and their politics, and his travels to the far corners of the world.AUTHORBIO: Ray Flynn served as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 1993-1997, and as the Mayor of Boston from 1984-1993. He hosts a daily, nationally syndicated political television talk show and lives in Boston with his wife and six children.Robin Moore is the bestselling author of The French Connection and The Green Berets, as well as more than thirty other novels and nonfiction books. He lives with his wife in Concord, Massachusetts.Jim Vrabel is a former newspaper reporter and speechwriter. He lives with his wife and daughter in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Author Notes

Robert Lowell Moore Jr., was born on October 31, 1925 in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Middlesex School, Belmont Hill School and Harvard College.

He published several novels using information gathered from travelling and his experiences as main ideas. In 1963 he joined the US Army Special Forces as a civilian with special permission from President John F. Kennedy, . He trained for almost a year and then went with the Special Forces to Vietnam. His experiences in Vietnam served as the background material for "The Green Berets" which was published in 1965. Other titles include "The French connection" and the Happy Hooker.

Robin Moore died February 21, 2008.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Those expecting a dispassionate biographical assessment of Pope John Paul II or a philosophical analysis of his papacy will be disappointed with this intimate treatment of the current pontiff. Flynn, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, unabashedly allows his admiration and respect for his subject to shine through every page. Based primarily on his own personal interactions with John Paul II over the course of the past 30 years, the book provides a compelling anecdotal description of the pope, the priest, and the man. An affectionate, subjective portrait of one of the most accessible and charismatic popes of the modern era. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

As U.S. ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997, Flynn had the ultimate dream job for a politician who also happened to be a devout Catholic. Now, with the term of the president who appointed him at an end, he has parlayed his four-year assignment in Rome into a memoir. His "Portrait of the Pope," written in collaboration with Moore, author of The French Connection, is largely a warm recollection of the special and intimate moments Flynn enjoyed in the presence of the pope. It begins in 1969 with their first meeting in Boston, long before the former Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, and ends late in Jubilee Year 2000 as Flynn visits Rome one last time. The book's most compelling narration is an account of the battle the pope waged in 1994 over the Clinton administration's efforts to advance its views on abortion at the United Nations Conference for Population and Development in Cairo. Flynn, a pro-life Democrat who agreed with the pope despite his ties to the president, writes candidly about the difficulty he experienced in fulfilling the pope's request to talk with Clinton before the conference. Although he is an unabashed admirer of the pontiff, Flynn also deals in the book with John Paul's increasing frailty and the discouragement the pope felt following the Cairo conference. For readers less inclined to tackle the more substantive papal biographies, Flynn's portrait provides a light alternative. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Focusing mainly on his and his family's personal contacts with Pope John Paul II while he served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican (1993-97), Flynn, who also served as mayor of Boston (1984-93), provides insight into the life, motives, and actions of the Pontiff. With coauthor Moore (The French Connection), the author describes his on-the-scene impressions, from the Pope's visit to Boston in 1978 to current speculations as to his successor. Admiration for his subject grew as he became increasingly aware of the pope's global knowledge, keen intellect, and sharp memory for personal detail even as his physical condition weakened. Flynn sees John Paul as a complex personality of uncompromising principles, at ease with the great and the lowly, reaching out personally to all peoples in love. This descriptive profile also highlights John Paul's humor and directness. Recommended as an optional purchase for public and academic libraries. Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One FIRST IMPRESSIONS A Polish cardinal talks about dockworkers in a church in Boston The first time I met Karol Wojtyla was in September 1969. I was running for public office--state representative from South Boston, Massachusetts--for the first time, and I got a call from a friend of mine, Joe Aleks, who was very active in Boston's Polish American community.     "Ray," he said, "they're having a time down at St. Adalbert's in Hyde Park on Sunday. If you want to get the Polish vote, you oughta be there." Before I had a chance to ask any questions, Joe hung up. But I had enough confidence in his political instincts that when Sunday came around I headed out to St. Adalbert's.     A "time" in Boston political, social, and religious circles is any event or reception that is held to honor someone--living or dead. People are judged by whose "times" they attend, just as the person being honored is judged by the attendance at their "time." It was only when I got to St. Adalbert's that evening that I found out that this "time" was being held for the Archbishop of Kraków, the first Polish cardinal ever to visit the United States.     I have to admit, I didn't know anything about the guest of honor. But I did know the person hosting the event, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Like me, Cushing had been born and raised in "Southie" (South Boston). When I was a kid, I sold him his newspaper from my spot at the corner of Broadway and Dorchester Street in Andrew Square and I remembered that when Archbishop Cushing was made cardinal, everybody in the neighborhood was so proud that one of our own had become a prince of the church. As the years went by everybody in the whole city of Boston came to love the gravel-voiced, craggy-faced archbishop, famous for his wisecracks and for mixing politics and religion.     During the Mass that preceded the reception that evening, Cardinal Cushing gave the guest of honor a warm welcome. He praised Cardinal Wojtyla's strong leadership in Poland during "this difficult hour." He talked about how Wojtyla was close to the "working classes" because he had worked in a chemical factory as a young man. He told those attending the Mass about the cardinal's standing up to the Communist government and getting the first church in the new "worker's city" of Nowa Huta. Turning to look at his Polish colleague, he also described how students and intellectuals flocked to him by the thousands.     I was impressed by Cardinal Cushing's introduction of this Polish cardinal. I was even more impressed by what I heard afterward, at the reception, while I was waiting on the line to meet him. "He's quite a guy," one of the priests from Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in South Boston told me. "They say he was in the Polish underground during the war. Afterward, he was a theology and philosophy teacher before he became a bishop."     I began to pay more attention to this special visitor. He was a handsome, solidly built man with a wide, open face and clear eyes. There was a kind of glow, a shining look that emanated from his face. He seemed comfortable "working the room," as we call it in politics. He stood at the end of the receiving line in the parish hall after some priests, monsignors and bishops and next to Cushing. As people came up, he'd speak to them, sometimes in Polish, sometimes in English.     "How are you? Good to meet you. Good to see you," I heard him say to people ahead of me as I waited to be introduced to him. Some people--politicians, priests, celebrities--aren't really all that comfortable with the "pressing the flesh" side of the business, but this guy seemed to like it.     When it came my turn to meet this Cardinal Wojtyla, Cardinal Cushing introduced me by saying, "Your Eminence, this is one of my neighbors from South Boston, Ray Flynn. Ray was a good athlete in school, a basketball player." The cardinal from Poland nodded his head to show he understood. "An athlete?" he said. "I was a soccer player myself."     Then Cushing, as if thinking of something less trivial and more appropriate to say, added, "Ray's father is a dockworker. He helps us run the Communion breakfasts. Sometimes we get a thousand people at them." The Boston cardinal was referring to the annual Communion breakfast at St. Vincent de Paul Church. Back then, before containerization and automation, thousands of men made their living on the docks of the port of Boston, and many priests worked closely with them, not just in religious issues but on issues of employment, working conditions, and wages. It was very much like the world captured in the movie On the Watefront , where Karl Malden portrays a priest who tries to help keep the dockworkers' union from being taken over by gangsters.     Cardinal Wojtyla was shaking my hand when Cardinal Cushing made the comment about my father, and the Polish cardinal wouldn't let go. He squeezed it as if he recognized a connection, as if we had something in common. "Dockworkers," he said, in his halting English. "Much work ... very difficult ... not safety on the ships."     I was startled by his words. I knew all about the "not safety," the dangerous conditions. My father had gone to our parish priest for help when he and his fellow workers suffered bites from the spiders and other insects that attached themselves to the animal hides they unloaded from South America. My wife's father, who was also a dockworker, had been injured when a roll of sheet steel had fallen on his leg. After that, he was never able to work again. I had worked on the docks myself, alongside my father--until he convinced me to go to college and find a different line of work. I was surprised that this Polish cardinal would comment on the dockworker's life, but I shouldn't have been. Years later, I would discover that Father Wojtyla's first published article, in the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny in 1949, concerned the worker-priest movement on the docks of Marseilles in France.     I would have liked to talk more with the guest of honor. But it was time for me to move on. There was a long line behind me. As I left him, I heard one of the priests introduce the next person in line, an older woman from the parish. "... and this is Mrs...., Your Eminence. She made the dumplings." As he said this, the priest pointed to the table on the other side of the room overflowing with various dishes of Polish food. The smell of it all--the kielbasa, kapusta, and golumbki --brought back memories of growing up in the Polish section of South Boston around Andrew Square before my family moved to an area called City Point. It obviously brought back memories for our special guest, too.     "The Polish in America have not forgotten how to cook," Cardinal Wojtyla said. "It is all good. Too good!" he said, patting his stomach. "My clothes won't fit me when I get back to Kraków." Everyone laughed at the cardinal's joke, including the cardinal himself. Once again I was surprised. Most of the Polish priests I knew from Our Lady of Czestochowa and other parishes were more reserved and much less outgoing. This guy was more like an Irish priest in the way he interacted with people and joked around, even with people he had never met.     Somebody brought a baby to be blessed, and the cardinal took it willingly and confidently, not like a lot of priests I'd seen, who were nervous when handling babies. Cardinal Wojtyla held up the baby and made faces at it and got the child to laugh. The cardinal didn't seem self-conscious, didn't seem to take himself too seriously. Cardinal Cushing looked on, approvingly, since Cushing himself loved to clown around and wear funny hats. This Polish cardinal seemed to have that same confidence and sense of humor. He also appeared to have a kind of inner peace about him, a serenity. He wasn't rushing anybody. He talked to people as long as they had something to say. He didn't just nod to them while looking beyond them to the next person in line. And when he was done with one person, he accorded the next person the same special treatment, as if he or she were the only one in the room. The cardinal didn't appear to be in a hurry. He seemed glad to be there, in that room, in that part of the world. He seemed comfortable, as though he were part of the family. As a would-be politician who was still not all that comfortable in these kinds of settings, I realized I could learn something from this guy.     "Yes, and where are you from? Where is your family from?" Cardinal Wojtyla asked person after person in the line. "When did they come? Do you write to them? Have you ever been back?" When someone said they were from Kraków, I saw the cardinal's eyes light up. "What's the name again?" He would ask, and "where does your family live?" He didn't just ask one question, he posed follow-up queries. He seemed like an uncle from Poland who hadn't seen the rest of his family, those who had come to America, in many years.     "How old?" he asked someone who brought children up to meet him. Then, bending down to the kids: "Do you like school? Do you study hard?" Then, standing up and talking to the parents again, he said, "Do you teach them Polish? It is good for children to know their language. And to know God loves them."     In South Boston, we frequently had visitors, including priests and bishops, from Ireland. Many people in the neighborhood still had family in the Auld Sod and visited back and forth all the time. I remember thinking, after I had already gone through the receiving line and was standing off to the side, how different it must be for Polish Americans. They couldn't go back and forth that easily. I didn't know what the rules were about writing letters or sending money. Many Polish Americans were founding prosperous, middle-class families in this generation. I didn't know if they could share their prosperity with their families back in Communist Eastern Europe. I made a mental note to find out more about what they were going through.     The reception continued. It was very informal, very lighthearted, as if everyone was taking a cue from the guest of honor. A band began to play polka music. People were laughing. Children were running around underfoot. It was more like a wedding reception than a party for a visiting church dignitary. I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with all my old neighbors and remind them I was running for state representative. But I keep looking over my shoulder at this visiting cardinal. I remember wondering how America must seem to him. When this was all over we'd get in our cars and drive back home, get up tomorrow morning, and go to work in a free country--and take it all for granted. Life must have been so different for him, growing up under the Nazis and then becoming a priest under a Communist regime.     I remember wishing I had more time to talk to this Cardinal Wojtyla, to ask him more questions. I was intrigued by him. There was something special about him. I didn't know he would go on to become pope, of course, but, even so, I wished I could get to know him better. Little did I know I would have the chance.