BY FREDDY GRAY
ACOMIC book that tells the life story of John Paul II is selling out as soon as it hits the shelves in Italian bookshops.
Depicting the late Pontiff as a superhero, the cartoon is aimed mainly at the young. But booksellers on the Via della Conciliazione, the boulevard that leads to St Peter’s Basilica, claim that as many adults as children are buying copies.
The Life of John Paul II in Cartoons has been produced jointly by Libreria Edititrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishers and Piemme, an Italian publishing house. The preface is by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who is in charge of the so-called “fast-track” process beatifying and then canonising John Paul II.
The 95-page book tells the remarkable life story of Karol Wojtyla: his childhood in Poland; his life as a worker and a secret seminarian under Nazi occupation; his work as a bishop and a Cardinal under Communism; his election as Pope; the attempt on his life in 1981 and his travels as Pontiff, including the pilgrimage in 2000 to Jerusalem.
It is drawn in a part-Disney, part-Tintin style, complete with a “Ka boom” and “crash” on one page as Nazi soldiers blow up a church in Poland during their retreat at the end of the Second World War.
The book also shows the famous scene from the Pope’s funeral last April, with the pages of the Gospel fluttering in the breeze on John Paul’s coffin and a huge crowd calling for his instant canonisation.
The opening images depict a moment from the 1978 conclave in which John Paul, the first nonItalian Pope in four centuries, prepares to step out on to the balcony of St Peter’s Square for his first papal address.
The new Pope prays to the Virgin Mary for strength and courage to take on the role of Vicar of Christ. As he makes his way out on to the balcony, an anxious priest approaches John Paul. “Holy Father, do you remember everything you have to do?” he asks. “I remember everything,” replies John Paul There follows a long flashback of John Paul’s early years, the death of his mother when he was nine and the subsequent death of his brother and father.
The young Karol, nick-named Lolek, is shown playing football with his school friends some of whom are wearing skullcaps — and later acting in a love scene in a theatre.
He stops short of developing a relationship with his attractive co-star, discovering instead his vocation and studying in secret to become a priest while working in a quarry and a factory as forced labour.
The last pages show John Paul being received into the arms of the Virgin Mary.