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|Introduction : John Paul II crosses a threshold||1|
|Ch. 1||The Pope is dead!||10|
|Ch. 2||Before there were conclaves||40|
|Ch. 3||The cardinals under lock and key||62|
|Ch. 4||The conclaves of the twentieth century||97|
|Ch. 5||Thou art Peter!||135|
|Ch. 6||The next conclave : looking beyond John Paul II||142|
|App. 1||The succession of popes||175|
|App. 2||The apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis on the vacancy of the apostolic See and the election of the Roman pontiff||189|
|App. 3||Cardinals presently eligible to vote in a conclave||215|
|App. 4||Biographical notes on select personalities, historical and present, appearing in the narrative||231|
|App. 5||A glossary of select terms||291|
|App. 6||Last will and testament of blessed Pope John XXIII||311|
|App. 7||Last will and testament of Pope Paul VI||315|
Posted November 9, 2004
The reviewers on the dust jacket are right. Not only is this book 'very readable,' but it's the 'most complete one volume explanation' of the obscure topic of how popes have been chosen. All that is enough to make this book a worthwhile read. However, I think there's more to this insider's guide. While the author doesn't come out and say it, there is a provocative conclusion to be drawn from his detailed description of the papacy's historical imperfections: The institution itself needs to be radically reformed in order to tap back into its spiritual roots and to keep in sync with its faithful. Maybe the author is too diplomatic to say it, but the conclusion is obvious from his fascinating narrative.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2004
Pham manages the amazing feat of compressing nearly two millennia of historical complexity into an easily accessible read while sacrificing neither the narrative thread nor the overarching themes - a rare accomplishment in any historical field, much less the minefield of church history. Even more amazingly, he manages to maintain a balance, joining neither the shrill critics of the Roman papacy nor its amen chorus of apologists. This book is recommendable to all audiences, Catholic and non-Catholic, liberal and conservative, scholar and lay. I predict this book is destined to be 'the' spectator's guide as Pope John Paul II's days near their end and the world once more focuses on the mysterious rituals that will play themselves out in the Vatican.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2004
The author has carefully gathered a prodigious amount of historical material - much of it inaccessable to all but a few polyglots, some of it entirely inaccessable because of the sources in the church hierarchy or archives. While his presentation of all this raw matter and, above all, the length of this work are not the most felicitous, there is no doubt that this book is destined to be the indispensable reference. Down the road others will perhaps produce out of this mass one or more reader-friendly volumes, but they'll all have to start with this foundational work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2004
When Pope John Paul II dies, the election of his successor will have a tremendous impact not only on the more than one billion Catholics around the world, but perhaps even more far-reaching impact on the rest of the world than many analysts appreciate. Not only will the next Pope lead his coreligious, but he will have a significant role to play on the world stage. Despite this import, the way that the Roman Catholic goes about selecting its head are a mystery to most outsiders - and probably the majority of its own members. Consequently, I am delighted that John-Peter Pham has written a book that, prescinding from the purely spiritual internal matters that are not the province of outsiders, presents a fascinating history of this electoral process and a thoughtful analysis of its current political dynamics. In this light the best part of the book is, in my opinion, the middle section where the author takes the reader through the conclave process step by step and gives fascinating historical anecdotes to illustrate his points. My only criticism of this excellent book is that its length - the professional reviewers are more than correct in noting that it will be the definitive work on this subject - may be daunting to many readers and the scholarly apparatus (seven appendices plus notes and bibliography) maybe too much.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2004
This is perhaps the best-informed and researched account of the secretive process that the Catholic Church uses to pick its supreme head. I'm not a Catholic, but I picked it up because, like many non-members of this largest Christian denomination, I'm fascinated by its history and ritual even as I disagree with many of its doctrinal stances. The author writes in a clear and interesting manner, rendering an obscure topic easily accessible to the intelligent reading public. Unfortunately, the author perhaps has too much to tell and the narrative gets long at times. Nonetheless, it's probably the best guide out there for those interested in this subject matter.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 1, 2004
For most Catholics - to say nothing of non-Catholics - the world of the Vatican is shrouded in mystery. Ironically, it becomes even more secretive just when it receives the most attention during the period between the death of one pope and the election of another. Even professional observers are generally at a lost given the arcane way that clerical world operates. Now John-Peter Pham, a former insider in this strange world, lifts the veil ever so slightly, presenting a balanced, historical perspective on events that will be closely followed by millions. This long overdue account will be the resource as the days draw near when John Paul II will meet his Maker and all the camera lenses of the world will focus on the Eternal City.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 27, 2004
A readable work that indulges in the sort of ex-insider spillage that guarantees both good reviews and sales. To paraphrase another reviewer: For every Mother Teresa of Calcutta... there's a priest who's willing to betray his vows and his Church in order to establish an academic reputation as a clever writer and keen intellect. The author exploits his past as a ex-clerical diplomat and former seminarian in Rome -- to full advantage. Forget about disloyalty and opportunism, Dr. Pham is very nearly as intelligent and well-informed as he fancies himself... and maybe a little swollen with intellectual arrogance. Just imagine, it's ready in time to cash in on sales from the imminent demise of John Paul II. Gosh, what a scholarly triumph.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2005
I found this book a pleasure to read, both for its intellectual and entertainment and value. I am debating with myself over whether I like the fact that half the book is appendices and notes, since those provide a great body of reference material for my library, or whether I would prefer sacrificing such facts for more stories from the history of the papacy. Any narrative that includes such characters as Charles the Fat, Stephen III (IV) through Stephen IX (X), and various 'antipopes' can't fail to amuse. Readers who have the slightest morbid curiosity will be glued to Pham's outline of the established protocol at the pontiff's passing as well as his detailed accounts of what caused each pope's death. Moreover, no one will be able to close this book in the middle of his retelling how one quack completely bungled both the final days and embalming of a recent Pope, nor will they be able to turn their eyes from tales of cadavers being fished out of rivers or exhumed during various renovations. For those who like the intricate histories of European nobility, Pham's attention to the details of each person's official title and the meaning of various symbols and gestures will delight. I myself am trying to memorize the nine titles of Pope himself, something to bring up at the next dull party. Pham's book is a serious one, though, and devout Catholics who read this book should stand in awe of the orderly nature of current papal proceedings relative to past anarchy, the vast stretch of history embodied in the workings of the Vatican, and the profound mystery of Jesus' legacy. Likewise, those readers who have no relationship with Catholicism but recognize the real power wielded by the Pope and the non-trivial nature of naming his successor will receive a rich education in this process and its history. Pham's book is a must-have companion for the moment this event is broadcast into our homes again on live television.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 7, 2004
More than the story of what happens when the pope dies, Pham has written a dramatic telling of the history we didn't get in catechism class. Here it all laid out: holy popes, sinful popes, greedy popes, political popes, courageous popes, even possibly a few actively homosexual popes. Having been brought up with the idea that all churchmen were good and roughly disabused of that notion by the scandals of recent years, it's refreshing to read a history of the Catholic Church that doesn't whitewash, but accepts the reality of human nature as both noble and ignoble. While the second half of the book is a virtual reference library, the first half is a very accessible narrative that ought to be read by every Catholic who wants to know the history of his or her church as it is in all its humanness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2004
Whether the author intended it or not, his chronicle of ritual, political intrigue, and secrecy is a page-turning morality tale of what happens when religious leaders become more enamored with earthly power than heavenly truth. The scandals that shocked many of us in recent years aren't so surprising when one puts them in the context of the papal shenanigans down through the ages that the author recounts with a rare combination of scholarly detachment and wry humor. A must read for Catholics, former Catholics, and all others interested in this still-powerful institution.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.