John Paul II: Portrait of a Pontiff

Santo subito, santo subito!

Yelling, like the pressure of a crowd of people when mourning and witnessing his body being buried in the basilica of St. Peter, Vatican. It happened in the year 2005. Now he has become a saint.

As we know that Saint Pope John Paul II, whose real name was Karol Józef Wojtyła, died April 2, 2005 at the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, Vatican.

I feel as the luckiest person as a writer and publisher. In 1997 I participated in an international book exhibition in Bologna, Italy.

It is from association and friendship with practitioners and activists of the international book industry, actors, writers and publishers that I get exclusive books. One of them is this luxurious book that is very valuable.

That is John Paul II, in which all the exotic images by Gianni Giansanti are immortalized in this book.

This collection of previously unpublished photo-graphs provides a unique and remarkable record of the first seventeen years of the current pontificate: John Paul II, elected to the Throne of Peter on October 16, 1978, as seen through the eyes of news photographer Gianni Giansanti.

Giansanti has been with the Pope, both in the Vatican and on his travels, from the day of his election and has created a dossier of amazing depth, consisting largely of images which have never before been published.

John Paul II is portrayed in every moment of his public life as well as in many aspects of his private existence within the papal palaces. The accompanying text is the work of Marco Tosatti, Vatican correspondent for the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, who has covered Pope John Paul II daily for more than fourteen years.

The resulting blend: a thrilling series of tableaux chronicling the events of our own recent history, filled with the uncertainties and the hopes which mark the century’s closing years. John Paul II has witnessed, and continues to witness, the cycles of many of this century’s great leaders.

He was elected when the world was divided into “blocs” and the threat of nuclear war still hovered over the earth. He has received Reagan and Gorbachev, Arafat and Yeltsin, Carter and Juan Carlos of Spain in his private library in the Vatican. He has addressed Muslims in a Casablanca stadium in Morocco and the Jewish community of Rome in their central temple. On the island of Goree, in Senegal, the port of departure for the slave ships on their journey to the Americas, he asked forgiveness for the horrors of slavery and the responsibilities of Christians in its implementation, calling it “this unknown holocaust.”

In Prague and on the Hill of Crosses at Vilnius he commemorated the victory – his own, in part – over Marxist materialism, and in New York, the heart of the consumer empire, he launched his end-of-themillenium crusade against the evils of consumer society.

Taken together, Gianni Giansanti’s photo-graphs do more than simply document these historic events; they constitute the definitive portrait of John Paul II, an extraordinary Pope in extraordinary times.

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Masri Sareb Putra
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