'MEMORY AND IDENTITY' Pope recalls shooting aftermath in new book
The foundation is a series of conversations between the pope and his friends.
ROME (AP) -- An Italian publishing house gathered Rome's glitterati Tuesday for the official launch of Pope John Paul II's new book, hoping the work that includes his first public description of the moments after he was shot can become an international best seller.
Top prelates sat side-by-side with politicians, industrialists and titled nobility for the event in the Palazzo Colonna, which was built by a 15th century pope.
The Rizzoli publishing house, which holds the worldwide rights, announced that the book "Memory and Identity" would come out in 14 editions in 11 languages over the next few months.
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed that John Paul's description of his ride in an ambulance after being shot by a Turkish gunman in 1981 had not been made public before.
John Paul wrote that he was fearful and in pain but had "a strange feeling of confidence" he would live.
The book, a copy of which was obtained Feb. 17 by The Associated Press in Poland, is based on conversations the pope had in Polish with his close friends, philosopher Krzysztof Michalski and the late the Rev. Jozef Tischner in 1993 at the papal summer residence near Rome.
"Someone taped them and transcribed them, but it remained unpublished," Navarro-Valls explained.
The book, which examines the damage done by Nazism and communism to Europe last century, also mentions the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other recent terrorist acts, saying militant networks represent "a constant threat for the life of millions of innocents."
A German Jewish leader criticized one passage in the book, saying the pope was making an unacceptable comparison between abortion and the Holocaust.
Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, pointed to the pope's contention that both the Holocaust and abortion came about when people decided to usurp "the law of God."
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German who heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejected the suggestion that the pope was "putting abortion and the Shoah on the same level," using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
He said the pope wanted to alert society to the "danger of evil."
The book is John Paul's fifth. His first, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," came out a decade ago and sold 20 million copies. Royalties from the books go to charity.