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Pope Francis: Untying the Knots Paperback – September 24, 2013
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“Paul Vallely's biography of Francis…stands, in terms of seriousness of purpose and depth of understanding, head and shoulders above other recent rushed cuttings jobs.” ―Peter Stanford, The Sunday Times, UK
“By the end of this stint of reviewing I have read through 10 biographies of one sort or another of the new Bishop of Rome. This emboldens me to say, without hesitation, that Vallely's is undoubtedly the most satisfactory of an otherwise lacklustre bunch...Vallely, as befits a long-time journalist, has done the legwork...Read this book, forget the rest.” ―Michael Walsh, The Tablet
“With more research and a wider canvas than most high-speed biographies, this portrait of Jorge Bergoglio gives us depth. Vallely teases out the contradictions of a radical conservative and clarifies his task of renewal.” ―Independent, UK
“No biography, however diligent, can capture someone's interior life. But what this book does demonstrate is that Pope Francis is a tougher, more complex figure than meets the eye...Anybody who reads this book will eagerly await his next move.” ―The Economist, UK
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Top Customer Reviews
The book title is taken from an eighteenth-century oil painting by Johann George Schmidtner: Mary Untier of Knots. Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) from Argentina came upon the original when he visited a church in Augsburg, Germany in 1986. It spoke so forcefully to him that he hung a copy of the painting in the suburban church of San José del Telar in Buenos Aires. “Untying the knots” of his life is the theme that biographer Paul Vallely, a journalist and activist on international development, has chosen as the backbone for his understanding of the interior life of Pope Francis.
Indeed, Vallely successfully portrays Pope Francis to be a tough and complex person who has lived a turbulent life formed amidst the dictatorship of 1976-83 in Argentina. An understanding of the moral challenges that Father Bergoglio faced is essential to understanding the man. Vallely clearly describes the forces that polarized Argentine society during the Dirty War of the military’s anti-communist agenda: the Left that was secularist, anti-clerical, and anti-Church versus the Right that espoused Catholicism. To complicate matters Liberation Theology was emerging and the Vatican was imposing a crackdown upon empowerment of the poor. Father Bergoglio lived in the midst of all these forces.
In addition to describing the forces that formed Father Bergoglio and how he responded to them, Vallely addresses the changes that occurred in Father Bergoglio after the dictatorship, which transformed the man from an unyielding, domineering leader during the dictatorship into a strong but tender Pope who demonstrates a good sense of the realities of power and the courage to act on that sense.Read more ›
As I read of his early years of administrative duties in the terribly complex social/political situation
in his country, I was surprised that the author did not suggest that the authoritarianism,
which the Pope readily admits to now, was due to lack of mentoring and support for him as a young and new
administrator in a local religious (Jesuit)community that was interacting with a national situation which
would befuddle a most experienced leader.
When you are trying to manage in a highly chaotic situation, options often seem to narrow. To react
quickly enough, a person can choose something that seems to work, insist on it and move on to the next problem,
just to keep up with the demand.
His personal and spiritual growth in his time as bishop and then Archbishop iw wonderful to see, discerning a path
that would best serve the variety of people in his flock, with special concern for the poor whose presence and needs
became so very evident to him.
He is much like the founder of his order, Ignatius of Loyola, who went through a conversion experience from a very
different kind of earlier life (as a courtier in a royal household) to a life of prayer and service, again, with
special attention to the poor, whether spiritually or economically.
The research in the book is highly interesting. The story moves along well. The book needs an editor because
the same passages and word-for-word descriptions occur several times. Maybe it was gotten out in too much of a hurry.
But it is still most worthwhile reading and a joy to see such a good, humble and concerned man expand his role in our
society today where there is so much suffering, but still so much hope.
As I read the news, his work and story are truly good news when that is rare enough to find.
Vallely interviewed many people in Argentina about what type of a leader Bergoglio was of the Jesuits and later as archbishop of Buenos Aires. He split the Jesuit order and was a divisive figure, according to the author.
Vallely found that Bergoglio didn't side with the military when death squads snatched opponents and tortured and killed them, as some had claimed, but that his actions caused two Jesuit priests, Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio, to be imprisoned and tortured for five months. The two refused to leave the slums where they had been working as Bergoglio had ordered due to differences of opinion about their ministries, so he informed the archbishop at the time that the two had in effect expelled themselves from the order, the book says. The archbishop prohibited them from saying Mass, something that the military apparently took as the church no longer protecting the men, according to Vallely.
Vallely writes that Bergoglio should have seen the danger in which he placed his priests, "behaved recklessly and has been trying to atone for his behavior ever since." After his term as head of the Argentine Jesuits ended, Bergoglio was placed in exile for several years by the new Jesuit leader as a priest in a lesser city, Cordoba.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent, well balanced explanation of who Pope Francis is and how he got that way. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the man and his ideas....Published 28 days ago by Susan Haas
It's a great book t get to know Pope Francis--his past ( I know why he calls himself a sinner). I'm looking forward to reading about his conversion.Published 2 months ago by meusersme
The book came in good shape and is a good addition to my library.Published 9 months ago by Michael Calhoun
A very objective account of the Pope's life. Obviously the two most controversial segments are his conflict with the Jesuits and the "Dirty Wars. Read morePublished 11 months ago by sam c. bertolet
This book seems to really show how Jorge Mario Bergolio grew into a major leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Read morePublished 11 months ago by EclecticReader
It's a nice read and offers us insight into the life of one Jorge Mario Bergoglio who went on to become Pope Francis. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Melissa Peralta