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Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession: Includes coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI
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Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession: Includes coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI

by John-Peter Pham
 

The death of Pope John Paul II and consequent election of Pope Benedict XVI has shed light on a political process that the world has not been privy to for almost twenty-six years. People from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Square, wondering who the next Vatican leader would be and how the election process really worked, while everyone from international

Overview

The death of Pope John Paul II and consequent election of Pope Benedict XVI has shed light on a political process that the world has not been privy to for almost twenty-six years. People from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Square, wondering who the next Vatican leader would be and how the election process really worked, while everyone from international news correspondents to local priests added their own opinions to the debate.

In Heirs of the Fisherman, former Vatican insider John-Peter Pham presents a candid portrait of the modern Vatican, the only account to reveal the striking changes to papal succession procedures made by John Paul II. Blending political and ecclesiastical history, Pham goes beyond a mere description of the complex rituals to offer rare insight into the dramatic shifts inside the College of Cardinals, whose 100 members now hail from 50 nations around the globe. He takes us into the secret conclave, where the electors were kept under lock and key, until they had selected a new pope. He also includes a chapter devoted to the intrigues of the 20th century where the first conclave had an emperor's veto and the last was won by the first non-Italian in four centuries becauase the Italians were bitterly divided.

With a new Preface, Afterword, and appendices that include an English translation of the last will and testament of Pope John Paul II, Heirs of the Fisherman is an illuminating history and must-have guide to this vitally important world event. It will continue to be an indispensable reference to observers of future Catholic Church politics.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While it looks to the future, Heirs of the Fisherman offers a grand historical sweep of significant elections past. Pham explains how conclaves developed and the forces that shaped their present, and still evolving, form. He writes with clarity and verve.... Makes history come alive in a way that illumines the present.... For those interested in understanding the conclave, Pham's book will be invaluable."—Ann Rodgers, America

"A timely reference for those handicapping the race for the next pope—and contemplating the future of Catholicism.... Pham's study may well be the last word—for now—on the arcane and controversial ways popes have been selected in the past.... Of broader interest, however, is his reckoning of the challenges the next pope will face, especially since talk of such conditional matters is very nearly taboo in Vatican circles.... Students of the papacy will find this an invaluable reference."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Those who are interested in understanding an event that is usually a milestone in religious and even in secular history will find no better resource in the English language." —Ladislas Orsy, Professor of Canon Law at Georgetown University Law Center

"Pham's exhaustive approach and informed view will appeal to anyone interested in more than a cursory treatment of this fascinating subject.... When the next conclave meets to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, this book could easily be required reading for papal observers and journalists reporting on the election."—Publishers Weekly

"A lucid and useful book.... Pham's long and detailed account of the historical intricacies of one pope succeeding another, going back two millennia, makes clear what a profoundly human institution the papacy is."—James Carroll, Washington Post Book World

"Both interesting and pleasurable to read."—thepopeblog.com

"A former Vatican diplomat and frequent writer on religious and public affairs, Pham here offers a veritable reference encyclopedia in disguise.... In a readable and objective fashion, Pham...shows how the tremendous struggle among popes, monarchs, and others, especially over investiture, eventually gave way in the 1100s as the electoral mechanism of the conclave developed. Such complex history often necessitates leaping back and forth in time, and Pham makes high drama of particular moments with clarity and frankness. As the likelihood of a new pontiff draws closer, this book is all the more timely."—Library Journal (starred review)

"The Papacy is an extraordinary institution that has outlived nations and empires, and might yet flourish long after our present world order has faded into legend. All the more important, then, that we understand the complexities of papal power and the papal succession. Heirs of the Fisherman is a mine of information on these subjects, offering a lucid and helpful analysis of the process of papal elections, with some important thoughts on how papal power stands in the modern world."—Philip Jenkins, author of The New Anti-Catholicism and The Next Christendom

"This UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS look at the papacy and papal succession reveals the institution itself to be Western history's most successful irony. Dr. Pham writes as a privileged observer of this long-running ballet as the dancers wait in the wings for its next act, anticipating John Paul II's final bow."—Paul E. Dinter, author of The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood

"This very readable book masterfully brings together the history of papal elections, the present procedures, and insightful prognostication of what might happen in the election of a new pope. Pham skillfully uses history, objective analysis, anecdotes, and an insider's knowledge in this lively exposition. The most complete one-volume explanation of papal elections in the past and present." —Charles E. Curran, author of the forthcoming The Moral Theology of Pope John Paul II

bn.com
On April 19, 2005, the first papal conclave in 27 years selected Cardinal Joseph Raztinger to succeed John Paul II as the leader of the Catholic Church. This lively and informative book by Vatican insider John-Peter Pham casts a scholar’s eye on the long, convoluted history of papal succession and discusses the unique challenges the new pontiff, Benedict XVI, will face as the Church confronts 21st-century issues.
James Carroll
Pham, a former Vatican insider who is now a professor at James Madison University, has written a lucid and useful book. He reports on the cardinals considered to be John Paul II's likely successors (mentioning three Italians, a Nigerian and an Austrian), but he also notes that fully half of the voting cardinals hail from developing nations where reactionary Catholicism thrives. Yet, as Pham also shows, the mortal challenges facing the next pope transcend the liberal-conservative divide.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
When the next conclave meets to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, this book could easily be required reading for papal observers and journalists reporting on the election. Pham, a writer and former Vatican diplomat and aide, presents an insider's view of the coming election buttressed by a thorough history and thoughtful analysis of the picking of popes. He explains the origins of the conclave (taken from the Latin, cum clave, meaning "with key") and how the present pope's alterations of the system that chose him will affect the first papal election of the 21st century. Pham also proposes and vets a short list of possible candidates, known as papabili. Although he is not the first to preview the next papal election in this fashion (John Allen's 2002 book, Conclave, provided a concise and readable overview), Pham's work is notable for its detail. He devotes extensive space to notes and appendices that include a complete list of popes beginning with St. Peter; John Paul's 1996 document on papal elections; a list of cardinals currently eligible to vote; biographical annotations on figures mentioned in the text; and a glossary of church terms. Pham's exhaustive approach and informed view will appeal to anyone interested in more than a cursory treatment of this fascinating subject. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The time, it would seem, is drawing near for Vatican watchers to study the sky for a plume of white smoke. Here's a timely reference for those handicapping the race for the next pope-and contemplating the future of Catholicism. Pham (James Madison Univ.), a former Vatican diplomat, knows the ground of his inquiry well. He thoughtfully considers the history of papal succession, never an easy matter to begin with and at times the cause of schism within the church; he looks into the various ways popes have come to their earthly ends (martyrdom, misadventure, assassination, old age); and he even offers a few morsels for the conspiratorially inclined (the surprising number of high-ranking deaths surrounding the passing of Pius XII; a little-publicized al Qaeda attempt on John Paul II's life a decade ago). Dense with tables, biographical sketches, and other scholarly apparatus taking up half the book, Pham's study may well be the last word-for now-on the arcane and controversial ways popes have been selected in the past: ". . . political considerations do play a part, albeit not necessarily the predominant part," he asserts, adding that the larger the electoral body of cardinals, the greater the chance for swings and surprises. Of broader interest, however, is his reckoning of the challenges the next pope will face, especially since talk of such conditional matters is very nearly taboo in Vatican circles. For one thing, he remarks, the church of the near future will draw most of its membership from the Third World, due to declining religiosity among European and North American Catholics; for another, the next pope will have to deal with the potential for growing conflict between Christianityand Islam; and questions of theological pluralism, divorce and remarriage, priestly celibacy, contraception, and the role of women in the church will grow ever more pressing. Students of the papacy will find this an invaluable reference, as will trendwatchers and other scholars of the future. Agent: John F. Thornton/Spieler Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195305616
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
03/31/2006
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

John-Peter Pham is a frequent writer and commentator on religious and public affairs. An alumnus of the post-graduate Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he served as a Vatican diplomat as well as an aide to both the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican and the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Dr. Pham is presently the Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University.

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