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Pope's new book released; advance sales top 1 million

Catholic World News - March 10, 2011

The Vatican today announced the official publication of a new book by Pope Benedict XVI, the 2nd volume of the Pope’s planned 3-part work on Jesus of Nazareth.

Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection is being released in 7 different languages. Advance sales of the book have already exceeded 1 million copies. The book is available in electronic form as well as hardcover format.

In the new book, Pope Benedict relies on both his background as a renowned theologian and his deep personal faith to offer a portrait of Jesus. Although the book centers on the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the Pope draws on other important events in Jesus’ public ministry to illustrate Christ’s mission. Even as he shows his familiarity with the work of Scripture scholars and theologians, the Pope demonstrates that a full understanding of Jesus can be obtained only through the eyes of faith.

The director of the Vatican publishing house, Father Giuseppe Costa, told L’Osservatore Romano that he received the final manuscript of the Pope’s work almost 18 months ago, with portions written in pencil in “the Pope’s unmistakable tiny handwriting.” Since that time the Vatican publisher has been working on official translations, production, and contracts with the publishers who are handling the different editions of the work. The new volume follows Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, which was published in 2008. In the preface to the 2nd volume the Pope discloses that the 3rd volume of the work will focus on the accounts of Jesus’ birth and infancy. The English-language publisher of the Pope’s book, Ignatius Press, has prepared a number of resources to accompany publication, including a study guide and a trailer, on the Ignatius web site, introducing the new volume.

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, a former student of then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger who now heads Ignatius Press, remarked on the unusual status of a book written by the Roman Pontiff, but explicitly not written as an expression of papal teaching authority. “When he speaks to us in this book, as Joseph Ratzinger, he is not engaging the faith of the Church – it’s not a magisterial document,” said Father Fessio in a Vatican Radio interview. “But as far as who wrote, between the bone and the marrow of Joseph Ratzinger and Pope Benedict even the finest sword will not find any space.”

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter makes the observation that although his pontificate has been battered by several public-relations gaffes, Pope Benedict himself is an extremely successful communicator—as this book demonstrates anew.

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