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Lives of the Popes : The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (February 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060653043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060653040
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,228,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Reviewing 262 popes, McBrien (theology, Univ. of Notre Dame) expands the sketches in his Encyclopedia of Catholicism (LJ 6/1/95) and provides broad historical and theological contexts for each profile, relying on the many-editioned Liber Pontificalis and The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), as well as other scholarly works. McBrien addresses the nonspecialist reader and groups his entries into eight historical periods with distinctive theological and pastoral interpretations. His approach is down to earth and critical, distinguishing pious legend from known fact. The well-written sketches vary from a paragraph to several pages, ranging from Peter to John Paul II. Supplementary appendixes and tables enhance the book for reference as well as circulating use. Recommended for academic and public libraries. [Note: Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Univ.) and Peter Maxwell-Stuart's Chronicle of the Popes (Thames & Hudson) are also due in November.]?Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., N.Y.
-?Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“This short encyclopedia... is an indispensable reference.” (Newsweek)

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Customer Reviews

Mr. McBrien is not entirely forthcoming about his sources.
Stephen McLeod
McBrien is an excellent writer and this is by far the most well-written, interesting, and informative books on the subject of popes that is readily available.
Wendy Reardon
I guess if you are reading the book as a reference and just grab a pope in the middle to read about, then it wouldn't seem as bad.
Eric Schultz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Jotz on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McBrien tries to compress almoat 2,000 years of religious, social and political history into one volume and does a pretty solid job. He gives anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages on the over 260 popes throughout history, with the bulk of his text spread out over the popes of the 20th century.
For the most part, McBrien looks at the popes with a scholarly and critical eye, describing how most of the popes throughout history were preoccupied with political and military matters rather than spiritual ones.
However, he does drift from a scholarly, critical examination from time to time. For example, I thought that he was improperly airing out his theological complaints against the current pope in his section on John Paul II (McBrien is theology chairman at Notre Dame), but I enjoyed his passage about the much-beloved pope, John XXIII. (can someone out there recommend any good books on this pope?)
McBrien ends this reference work with some papal facts, like "best and worst" and "firsts and lasts" and has a chronological list, as well as an alphabetical list, of the popes. However, my favorite parts of this book were the introductions to each chronological period of papal history. McBrien gives a general picture of the mood of the day and how each pope dealt with military, political (and sometimes spiritual) issues of the day. He also takes a look at internal church politics and stresses that throughout history, popes were sometimes under control of kings, emperors, powerful families and groups of bishops and clergy.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Apparently the author is a dissenter in the catholic church, unbeknowngst to me. I picked this up in Italy to read about all the popes(most of which I knew nothing about). This book, with its short synopsis on each pope is a great read. It also illustrates the marvelous variety of personalities that inherited the throne of peter. From the smiling Pope John Paul I to the warrior pope Julious II. It details the roman persecutions and shows how few popes were killed in the period, details the schisms and also the sexual adventures of the popes. Shows how many popes were murdered, and how many had short periods in power. It also details the papal election process and its developments. A must read for those interested in a history of the Popes without the usual tenderness associated with some publications and the usual wordiness of academics.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Allen Vander Meulen on January 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
McBrien, as he states right in the introduction to this book, is the first to admit that it is impossible to adequately cover the lives of all 260+ popes in a single book - other reserchers have written multiple volume works and/or devoted their entire lives to the same task. So, his somewhat sparse treatment of the lives of all of the Popes, even the most historically significant or interesting ones, is understandable - there simply wasn't room (or time) to do so.

Given that qualifier, the book is a good general introduction to the lives of every pope up through the late John Paul II. Its value is primarily as a starting point for learning how the Popes [and Christian thought and institutions in general] have evolved over the centuries, and to help us grasp the papacy's significance and impact on world history.

I would not say that Richard McBrien is a world class wordsmith. Much of the text is repetitive - how many times, for instance, do I need to be told what a Pallium is, or that a newly elected pope is technically not a pope until he is made a Bishop of Rome? One gets the impression that most of these one paragraph to two or three page mini-biographies were written as stand-alone documents, then assembled into a single volume. Even then, you often see the same sentence or parenthetical comment repeated two or three times within the biography of a single Pope.

McBrien presents each Pope in chronological order, and often discusses schisms and controversies of the time, the subject's relationships and connections with other past or future Popes, and their interactions with other European rulers. He segments the 2000 year history of the papacy into several large spans of time, such as the Early Papacy, the Reformation era, and the Modern era.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Jotz on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McBrien tries to compress almoat 2,000 years of religious, social and political history into one volume and does a pretty solid job. He gives anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages on the over 260 popes throughout history, with the bulk of his text spread out over the popes of the 20th century.
For the most part, McBrien looks at the popes with a scholarly and critical eye, describing how most of the popes throughout history were preoccupied with political and military matters rather than spiritual ones.
However, he does drift from a scholarly, critical examination from time to time. For example, I thought that he was improperly airing out his theological complaints against the current pope in his section on John Paul II (McBrien is theology chairman at Notre Dame), but I enjoyed his passage about the much-beloved pope, John XXIII. (can someone out there recommend any good books on this pope?)
McBrien ends this reference work with some papal facts, like "best and worst" and "firsts and lasts" and has a chronological list, as well as an alphabetical list, of the popes. However, my favorite parts of this book were the introductions to each chronological period of papal history. McBrien gives a general picture of the mood of the day and how each pope dealt with military, political (and sometimes spiritual) issues of the day. He also takes a look at internal church politics and stresses that throughout history, popes were sometimes under control of kings, emperors, powerful families and groups of bishops and clergy.
The book is a solid reference if you someone asks you who Pope Eugenius or Sixtus II was, and when they were popes. Since McBrien had 2,000 years of history to cover, it piqued my curiosity to learn more about these fascinating individuals and the times in which they lived.
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