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Publisher's Summary

Elected to the papacy at the age of 76, Pope John XXIII was to have a brief but important reign. Although he had a doctorate in theology, his gifts were pastoral, reaching out to the people of the Church. After his doctorate, he spent nine years working for the socially-minded bishop of Bergamo, acquiring a broad understanding of the problems of the working class. This pastoral sympathy for ordinary people was brought out in his papacy. Vatican II, which he convened, brought forth the idea of a church as a community, in which all God's people are a sign of redemption for the human race. Cahill, in his short biography, gives us a sense of the enduring importance of John XXIII's idea.
©2002 Thomas Cahill; (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Jack on 08-21-07

John XXIII, The Greatest Pope

Thomas Cahill situates John XXIII’s person and papacy within the history of the Roman Catholic Church as well as developments in the Church after John’s death. Cahill begins with a lengthy description of papal history up until John’s time. He then briefly introduces John’s family life and movement toward the throne in Rome. Cahill then treats in detail—complete with Vatican intrigues!—John’s greatest contribution to the Church, the Second Vatican Council. Finally, Cahill compares John’s papacy with that of his more conservative successors.

Cahill’s “dark history” of the papacy might offend some, but it is largely accurate. Indeed, Cahill offers some papal highlights amid all the gloom, most notably the reign of Gregory the Great. Any objective history of the papacy will turn up just as much dirt, maybe even more—papal executioners, concubines, wars, excesses, and so on.

As a contrast to much of this debauchery or well-intended inaction, Cahill offers the wise and compassionate papacy of John XXIII. His anecdotal history of John’s family life and struggles through the priesthood make for especially enjoyable and spiritual listening. Current world affairs make John’s lifelong commitment to peace resonant and urgent. John’s equanimity and focus on Jesus, while making his way through well-meaning, but closed-minded bureaucrats, also offers a model of sanctity and compassion in the midst of disagreement and misunderstanding.

“Conservative” Catholics will probably dislike this book. “Liberal” members will most likely nod along. And the open-minded will probably learn a few things about a remarkable man and a model of sainthood.

Also Recommended on Audible: Hans Kung, -The Catholic Church-

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful


By connie on 08-09-07

It's not the sentimental

I'm a faithful Catholic (the kind who enjoys daily mass and my breviary), and I enjoyed every minute of this audiobook!

Perhaps the title ought to have reflected that much of the book contained histotrical context of the papacy, but folks! What else can be written about popes at a time when society was such that the papacy was more about polity than faith and morals? I don't think Cahill meant his work as definitive history of the Catholic Church - even Kung's much longer and more serious audiobook on the subject does not pretend to that. (That's also a pretty good listen, but not exactly "entertaining" as is Cahill's)

Cahill tells of the good news from Popes also - what there was - And he tells the whole tale with a dry humour (like the reference to Calvinist Geneva being "not much fun" alluded to above).

Cahill may have been too easy on John XXXIII, though - Surely no human could be that good - why he'd be a...saint?

Humorous, informative, inspiring, well narrated from a a well-written text, this audiobook goes particularly well accompanied by the autobiographies of Simone Veil, Dorothy Day, and Deitrich Bonhoeffer also available on this site.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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