George Weigel, a U.S. biographer of Pope John Paul II who will speak at Xavier College Preparatory Jan. 26, is pictured in Rome Jan. 12, 2011.
George Weigel, a U.S. biographer of Pope John Paul II who will speak at Xavier College Preparatory Jan. 26, is pictured in Rome Jan. 12, 2011.

George Weigel, who penned a best-selling biography of Blessed John Paul II, will speak Jan. 26 at Xavier College Preparatory’s Center for the Performing Arts.

Weigel’s appearance will serve to raise funds for the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture established by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in 2006.

Christina Gavin, interim coordinator for the John Paul II Resource Center, said Weigel’s performance will be an opportunity for people to learn more about the late pope, his life and work. She said that part of the draw to Weigel’s talk is that for many Catholics, Blessed John Paul II is the first pope they remember.

“I think that intrigues people because for most people today, they only knew John Paul II as the Holy Father. No one knew anybody else,” Gavin said. “I was 8 years old when he became the pope and so I really didn’t know the popes before him like I knew him.”

Weigel, Gavin said, is an intelligent man who is not afraid to speak the truth.

“He has a way of capturing people, of helping them look at what’s happening in society and how to really go forth as a Catholic, to address the questions of ‘How am I supposed to live? How am I supposed to stand?’” Gavin said.

Weigel’s talk will relate the old evangelization — in which the Church was introducing Christ to people for the first time — to the new evangelization. “I’m having to talk to people who know Christ and yet are still struggling and trying to find the truth,” Gavin said. “He is going to take the old and bring it to where were we then, where are we now, and where can we go for the future.”

Weigel said his talk will “explore the late pontiff’s life as a ‘radically converted Christian disciple’” whose literary and philosophical work, priesthood and papacy all flowed from an intense personal friendship with Christ.

The presentation, he said, will explain “how the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II marked a ‘hinge’ on which the Church completed its turn from the Church of the Counter-Reformation to the Church of the New Evangelization.” The talk will then “link all of this to the Great Jubilee of 2000 and the apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineute, which charged the entire Church to go ‘out into the deep’ of post-modernity to convert the world.”

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life Issues for the Phoenix Diocese, said Weigel is a compelling speaker.

“He is very witty,” Phelan said. “He speaks in a very striking and powerful way with a lot of inside details about John Paul II’s life. He was as close to John Paul II as anyone from his childhood and since he was a young priest because he was his official biographer.”

Weigel has also just written a new book that Phelan said “will really challenge Catholic Americans.” The book, “Evangelical Catholicism” isn’t due out until Feb. 5, but will be available at the Jan. 26 presentation.

“The first copies of the book will be available at the event and he’ll be signing them,” Phelan said. “If you love John Paul II and the Church, it’s really not a night to miss. It’s rare that we get a speaker of this caliber.”

Bishop Olmsted said Phoenix is blessed to have Weigel speak about the late pope.

“Few people in the world understand the thought and achievements of the late Holy Father as well as Weigel,” Bishop Olmsted said. “Because of his own lively faith, his solid philosophical and theological formation, and his scholarly research, he has been able to present the life and thought of John Paul in a way that is unparalleled. Anyone interested in the Wojtyla papacy and Theology of the Body will not want to miss this event.”

George Weigel

When: 7-9:30 p.m., Jan. 26, followed by a coffee and dessert reception

Where: Xavier College Prep’s Center for the Performing Arts

Info: (602) 354-2179

Tickets: $10 each

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