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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church

The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church

3.9 36
by John Thavis

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The New York Times–bestselling inside look at one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years, John Thavis held one of the most remarkable journalistic assignments in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. In The Vatican Diaries, Thavis reveals Vatican City as a


The New York Times–bestselling inside look at one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years, John Thavis held one of the most remarkable journalistic assignments in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. In The Vatican Diaries, Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place struggling to define itself in the face of internal and external threats, where Curia cardinals fight private wars and sexual abuse scandals threaten to undermine papal authority. Thavis (author of The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age) also takes readers through the politicking behind the election of Pope Francis and what we might expect from his papacy. The Vatican Diaries is a perceptive, compelling, and provocative account of this singular institution and will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the challenges faced by religion in an increasingly secularized world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Wonder what's going on behind those huge doors at the Vatican? Wonder what those cardinals are up to as they scurry about getting ready to elect a new pope? Wonder what the man who rings the bells when that new pope is finally elected is thinking? Thavis answers all in this fascinating book.”
—USA Today
“A veritable handbook on all things Vatican.”
—The Daily Beast
“A thoughtful meditation on recent papal administrations and the bureaucrats, functionaries, and emissaries who advance or thwart Rome’s global ambitions.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Most fascinating is Thavis' generous assessment of Benedict XVI, whom he sees as an almost tragic figure.”
—The New Yorker
“Thavis’s Vatican Diaries is well worth putting on your Amazon wish list.”
[The Vatican Diaries] succeeds well in presenting the Roman Curia as a flesh-and-blood community, a byzantine theater of the sacred.”
—National Catholic Reporter
“Entertaining and readable.”
—Publishers Weekly
“A lively book that's steeped in history and personality.”
—The Eagle Tribune
“Thavis has offered this rare, perceptive and highly readable glimpse into a power structure that is less in control than many would have us believe.”
“Illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike.”
—Kirkus Reviews
“In an age when social media threatens to emasculate news and current affairs, Thavis' work is a refreshing sign that great journalism is not dead. Instead of the inane trivia that now passes for 'news' , Thavis provides us with an account of great depth carefully tempered with censure and sympathy.”
Justin Cahill, Booktopia
“An American Catholic who has done his homework, learned Latin and Italian, made friends in high places, found his way for thirty years in the maze of Church bureaucracy, gives us a humane and realistic and (yes) humorous picture of a mortal institution that guides hundreds of millions of mortals along the path from birth to death and beyond. To an old Prot like me, it's a tour of alien terrain and a bridge to old and dear friends.”
Garrison Keillor
Vatican Diaries is a must-read for anyone interested in the Vatican’s role in the Catholic Church and the world.”
Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
The Vatican Diaries by John Thavis provides us with an intriguing and much needed antidote to one of the most common problems affecting many Catholics and non-Catholics who look at the Vatican these days: the assumption of the cold ruthlessness of the “machine”. Thavis shows us also the deeply human side of the Vatican, the last Empire and the last, great theater of the sacred in Western Christianity.”
Massimo Faggioli, University of St. Thomas
“In this highly readable memoir of being a journalist at the Vatican, John Thavis follows the conclaves, sex scandals, internal backstabbing and olympian nature of the popes with a sense of comic relief at the caravan passing through his viewfinder.”
Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

John Thavis recently retired as the prizewinning chief of the Rome bureau of the Catholic News Service, where he had covered the Vatican since 1983. He divides his time between Minnesota and Rome. The Vatican Diaries is his first book.

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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!! Reads exceptionally well, and is revealing and insightful. I recommend this to anybody who wishes to learn more about the inner workings of the Vatican!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Interesting and informative. Hard to put down which often isn't the case with non-fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is no time like the present to read this book. Thank you John Thavis for having the courage to write this book, and thank God I am Orthodox! This is an eye opener, and yet some how one can keep hope that the Vatican can be cleaned out. It is sad to have such filth in a beautiful place. I love Rome and had the awesome privelage to meet John Paul II when he was well. I now wonder how much the top officals did to keep him alive and who really was in charge. So many questions, and so much doubt! Let us pray that the Vatican gets it right this time and save the church of millions.
O_Tempora More than 1 year ago
It's not quite what I was expecting, but worth the read regardless.  It's not an exposé or an insider's view of the machinations of the Vatican, but rather like listening to a guy at a bar telling stories about the people he's met and the places he's been.  Fascinating stories, told engagingly, with humor, good grace, panache, and, generally, affection for his subjects.  In short, I'd like to meet him in a bar and listen some more.  Maybe ask a "But wait a minute" or two a certain points.  But I'd buy the beers. If you want an interesting if "fictional" read, try "Vatican" by Malachi Martin.
DowntownerPO More than 1 year ago
Just as Pope Benedict was being chosen, the Vatican Diaries arrives. I flew through it enjoying every minute of it. My husband has it now. Informative as to the intrigue, cliques, decision-making process at work in the Vatican. Reveals how pervasive the personality of each Pope is to the conduct of the Vatican work. Well-written by a writer close to the subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 The Vatican Diaries is an excellent book for understanding the place and relationship of the Catholic Church in today's world. John Thavis is a clear, concise writer who doesn't lack a sense of humor. This book is also good for a behind the scenes look at  how the Vatican operates and some feel for what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were really like. It also addresses the  problems of  the church and shows what a massive job Pope Francis has before him. He may be the one who can steer the church into a better course. I'm really glad I bought this book and read it and can add it to my permanent library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a terrific book to pick up ahead of the conclave! This is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the Vatican and how it functions from a respected journalist. It's especially refreshing - lucid, well-reported, even funny - amid all the breathless, often misinformed commentary these days in the wake of the pope's resignation. 
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
Great read- but I would have liked more detail into the papacy itself, specifics on what their life is really like.
efm More than 1 year ago
Wonderful; true story of life behind the walls of the Vatican.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
The Vatican Diaries by John Thavis This is the product of many years of journalism by its author who narrates the story in the first person. It covers some trivial moments - as to who tolls the bells at St. Peter when Benedict is elected, or Benedict's poor press persona - to more serious themes - as to the scandals involving Fr. Marcial Maciel sexual misconducts, the Bishop Lefebvre reintroduction to the Church, and the Church's positions on condoms and homosexuality. Each chapter deals with a topic and the book has ten chapters. Chapter one is all about the bells at St. Peter and how they were supposed to be used to announced the election of Benedict. However, due to a communication mishap, they almost did not toll at all... Chapter two is about comparing the press persona of Benedict - boring - vs. that of John Paul II's charismatic. Chapter three is about the sexual scandal that the founder of the Legions of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel and how it was tolerated up by John Paul II because the legionaries were producing so many new priests and bringing in lots of money - to the point that it almost derailed John Paul II's beatification. Chapter four is about building a parking structure at the Vatican and how a 2nd century Christian burial place was uncovered - thus slowing the construction. Chapter five is about the fiasco of having Bishop Lefebvre return to the Church, after one of his supporters, Bishop Richard Williamson, publicly declares that the Holocaust never happened. Chapter six is about Father Reginald Foster, the Vatican's picturesque Latinist - who would tell anyone who would listen all the wrongs in the Church. Chapter seven is about the controversy of declaring Pope Pius XII a saint and the beatification procedure. Chapter eight is about the Vatican's dress code. Chapter nine is about condoms and gays in the Church. Chapter ten is about Benedict. The book is an easy read and it was written for an American audience. The chapter on Marcial Maciel (third chapter) was probably the only one I would recommend to anyone else to read. The rest of the chapters were trivial (chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10), or too biased chapters 5, 7, and 9. Mr. Thavis has a soft spot for Benedict and goes to extremes to protect him almost making a case that the pope is on the right side of history on topics such as condoms, homosexuals, and beatification. Even when Mr. Thavis proclaims that the Vatican culture on homosexuals is "Si non caste, saltem caute, If not chaste, at least with caution," he still goes on to defend the pope because he had declared homosexuals not fit to be priests. And he also gets into semantics about the church official position on condoms, trying hard to paint a rosier picture. For that reason I only gave his three stars....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
very interesting read for someone interested in hisotry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gives easy to understand information on the inner workings of the Vatican. The humanized perspective of John Thavis made the Vatican more of a reality than the religious and glamorous vision projected. Many details of the Bishops Conclave and the election of our new Pope would have been missed if not for this book. In the coming days we will be hearing more and more about the Vatican. I highly recommend "The Vatican Diaries" to anyone interested in the Catholic Church and the reign of Pope Francis the First.
reader75LL More than 1 year ago
Interesting reading on the current operations of the Catholic Church.
Gardenseed More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a fascinating hard-to-put-down page turner. The author, a journalist, writes what he has seen and found, without judging or condemning. This book is a must also for history buffs! Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Engrossing and a fun read, though a bit lightweight
bigjac15 More than 1 year ago
some interesting insights then it gets mired in priest sex abuse scandals more short stories than any behind the scenes disclosures
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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jtupper More than 1 year ago
Fascinating discussion of the Vatican. I wish the book continued through the abdication of Benedict and election of Francis.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good above average read but not at the level of a great read. Most chapters were interesting, some more than others. Yet, what was missing, at least to me, was the lack of a coherent theme that tied it all together. More like a series of topics put in book form. If you know nothing or little about the Vatican, than this is a good start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago