Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II Jonathan Cape $125 FIRST I must confess an interest: I studied theology at university partly to intellectualise my rejection of the Catholic faith in which I was brought up, and which, apart from some of its moral codes of conduct, appeared to me to bear no relevance to life in the 20th century. When confronted with a volume trying to justify Catholicism by its foremost practitioner and interpreter, I was curious to see if I would be won over by his arguments. Having read it, I remain the cynic I was. This book is in the form of a question-and-answer session. The questioner is, disappointingly, a devout Catholic, Vittorio Messori. Despite the potential for bias, Messori does pose some tough questions such as 'Does God really exist?', 'If God exists, why is he hiding?', 'Is Jesus the son of God?', 'Why is there so much evil in the world?'. Given that the Pope's answers are likely to be scrutinised by the world's 995 million Catholics, as well as many other interested parties, what he says needs to be convincing. However, we end up with little more justification than is on offer from your local Catholic priest. Although the writer is obviously extensively read, with an ability to put his points across clearly and thoughtfully, ultimately his arguments rest on those two central tenets of most religions: faith and revelation. If you don't have one and have not experienced the other, you are unlikely to be won over to the Catholic Church or, indeed, any other. The Pope does his argument no good in passages such as this where he quotes with approval traditional Christian understanding in answer to whether God exists: 'For Christians, the philosophical Absolute, considered as the First Being or Supreme Good, did not have great meaning. Why engage in philosophical speculations about God, they asked themselves, if the living God has spoken, not only by way of the Prophets but also through his own son?'