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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

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Overview

The revealing New York Times bestseller examines the reign of Pope Benedict, the papal conclave process, and the history of one of the world’s oldest and most mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years John Thavis held one of the most fascinating journalistic jobs in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. His daily exposure to the power, politics, and personalities in the seat of Roman Catholicism gave him a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective ...

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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

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Overview

The revealing New York Times bestseller examines the reign of Pope Benedict, the papal conclave process, and the history of one of the world’s oldest and most mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years John Thavis held one of the most fascinating journalistic jobs in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. His daily exposure to the power, politics, and personalities in the seat of Roman Catholicism gave him a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective on an institution that is far less monolithic and unified than it first appears. Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, scandals threaten to undermine papal authority, and reverence for the past is continually upended by the practical considerations of modern life.

Thavis takes readers from a bell tower high above St. Peter’s to the depths of the basilica and the saint’s burial place, from the politicking surrounding the election of a new pope and the ever-growing sexual abuse scandals around the world to controversies about the Vatican’s stand on contraception, and more.

Perceptive, sharply written, and witty, The Vatican Diaries will appeal not only to Catholics (lapsed as well as devout) but to any readers interested in international diplomacy and the role of religion in an increasingly secularized world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"I'm convinced that the backstage reality at the Vatican is infinitely more interesting than the caricature of power and authority that dominates the mainstream media," writes Thavis, former Rome bureau chief at the Catholic News Service. His entertaining and readable book proves his point. Focusing on the reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (neither of whom come off well here), Thavis reveals a great deal about how the Vatican bumbles along. Each chapter focuses on a particular mishap, so readers are sure to be intrigued, whether by "Bones"-the story of how a priceless archeological find almost fell to the expansion of the Vatican's parking spaces-or a profile of Father Reginald Foster, the Vatican's rebellious, mouthy (and deeply gifted) chief Latinist. The controversies surrounding the sainthood of Pope Pius XII, the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X, and the Catholic church's struggles with birth control, AIDS, homosexuality, and celibacy are also all included, revealing just how political the Vatican really is. Given such insight, readers may wish that Thavis had provided his own perspective on if, and how, he kept his own faith while working in such an environment.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Recently retired Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service Thavis feels that the Vatican, while globally known, is misunderstood by many. His journalistic obligation to cover the city-state, as he did for more than 25 years, makes him the ideal author for this book. He dedicates the first few chapters to a discussion of the selection of Pope Benedict XVI, presenting the events and characters surrounding this important change with clarity and human detail. He addresses controversial topics in the Catholic Church, from sex—a chapter is devoted to nuances of private opinion on abstinence as compared to using condoms—to sainthood, with relative ease. VERDICT Thavis's anecdotal presentation will appeal to readers seeking understanding of or connection with the Catholic Church's heart. This book is recommended for anyone who would like to challenge their own notions and perceptions of the Vatican.—Annette Haldeman, Dept. of Legislative Svcs., Maryland General Assembly
Library Journal - Audio
In this debut, retired Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service Thavis offers listeners a tantalizing, insider's look at life in the Vatican and its history. The place is filled with colorful and intriguing characters, and at the center of all the action stands the pope. Listeners will share the tension of an organization all too aware that millions of people turn to it either desiring moral guidance or watching for missteps and opportunities to criticize. Thavis admirably illustrates the complex challenges of leading a worldwide church. Narrator Malcolm Hillgartner is a compelling tour guide through this labyrinth of ancient faith in the modern world. VERDICT Recommended for academic and public libraries. ["Thavis's anecdotal presentation will appeal to readers seeking understanding of or connection with the Catholic Church's heart," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Viking: Penguin hc, LJ 1/13.—Ed.]—Denis Frias, Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
A seasoned reporter on the Vatican beat takes us for an irreverent and revealing visit. Frequently from the vantage of the reportorial fly on the wall, Thavis, retired Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service, looks candidly at the goings-on at Saint Peter's. His report, even without comment on the problematic events at the Vatican Bank, serves as a case study in management--and mismanagement--at a considerable worldwide enterprise with 400,000 priestly representatives. Though much history resonates throughout all church events, Thavis concentrates on the history he has witnessed firsthand, including the process of bell-ringing on the naming of a new pope and the work of various functionaries in the organization. We learn of the fight to save a unique ancient cemetery against the need for more underground parking and how the matter of the Legion of Christ was bungled when its founder was revealed as a thieving predator and why His Holiness didn't deal with an anti-Semitic bishop. Thavis also relates his time on the road with the pontiff and notes a futile visit by George W. Bush. He reviews the stalled drives to canonize the late John Paul or Pius XII, whose wartime role is still debated. Especially provocative are the chapters dealing with the mismanagement of diverse sex scandals and, finally, an appraisal of the opaque personality of Benedict, who seems, at least in public, detached, disengaged and often distracted. Like many in political life, the incumbent pope's remarks are subject to considerable spin, "part of the great communications disconnect at the Vatican." (Yet now His Holiness has acquired the Twitter handle "@pontifex." How it's used remains to be seen.) Not only provocative, this report is illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781470899004
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/21/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

John Thavis recently retired as the prizewinning Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, a position he had held since 1983. He recently served as an ABC correspondent throughout the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict, the papal conclave that elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and the instillation of Pope Francis. In 2007 the Catholic Press Association awarded him the St. Francis de Sales Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic press. He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    A must read

    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.

    13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Great book!! Reads exceptionally well, and is revealing and insi

    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!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Great read. Interesting and informative. Hard to put down which

    Great read. Interesting and informative. Hard to put down which often isn't the case with non-fiction.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2013

    It's not quite what I was expecting, but worth the read regardle

    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.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    What a terrific book to pick up ahead of the conclave! This is a

    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. 

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Fascinating insights of the last three popes...

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

     The Vatican Diaries is an excellent book for understanding the

     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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Vatican Diaries by John Thavis This is the product of many

    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....

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2013

    Great read, easy, and light

    Great read- but I would have liked more detail into the papacy itself, specifics on what their life is really like.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent

    Wonderful; true story of life behind the walls of the Vatican.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

    quite interesting

    Engrossing and a fun read, though a bit lightweight

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2013

    Expected more

    some interesting insights
    then it gets mired in priest sex abuse scandals
    more short stories than any behind the scenes disclosures

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Interesting read!

    very interesting read for someone interested in hisotry

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    The Vatican Diaries

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2013

    Interesting reading

    Interesting reading on the current operations of the Catholic Church.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2013

    I found this to be a fascinating hard-to-put-down page turner. T

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Interesting book

    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.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    Would not recommend

    This book was a real disappointment.The author starts off great by giving a general overview of the papacy and then stops.The remainder of the book is a self serving tale of his limited ex perience with contacts through a third party. This could have been an interesting subject for a book but falls flat.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    Highly recommend

    Fascinating discussion of the Vatican. I wish the book continued through the abdication of Benedict and election of Francis.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Highly Recommend it.

    Iam in the process of reading The Vatican Diaries now. So far I have found it interesting and enlightening.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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