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The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History of Papal Elections Hardcover – June 6, 2003

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A well-written survey of papal elections from the earliest times to the present day. Walsh's book is especially valuable for those who wish to follow the changing procedures for choosing the pope over the centuries. His material on the first millennium provides a long-needed account that is not available elsewhere. (Francis Burkle-Young, author of Passing the Keys: Modern Cardinals, Conclaves, and the Election of the Next Pope)

The Conclave is church history as it is meant to be written: with style, energy, and even wit. The sinful and the saintly, the conniving and the compassionate, the greedy and the good, make up this entirely fascinating survey of the history of papal elections. In a book for scholars and layperson alike, Michael Walsh offers solid research, brilliant prose, and, best of all, a terrific story. (James Martin, SJ, author of In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience)

In The Conclave, Michael Walsh has written a concise new history of the Papacy from a fresh perspective, focused not so much on the character and achievements of the Bishops of Rome during their time of office, as on the issues, struggles, and occasional violence and intrigue that have surrounded their elections. More than any other brief history of the papacy currently available, this book brings out the political and cultural context in which the Papacy operates, as authority is handed on from successor to successor in the Petrine ministry. Walsh combines a historian's learning and care for detail with a story-teller's gift for gripping narrative, and the result is both instructive and entertaining. (Brian E. Daley, S.J.,, Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame)

Recommended for seminary and academic libraries and for community libraries with strong religion circulations. (David I. Fulton, College of St. Elizabeth Library Journal)

About the Author

Michael Walsh is a prominent Catholic author and historian. A former Jesuit, he is the archivist for the Jesuit-founded Heythrop College at London University, serves as editor of the Heythrop Journal, and is a columnist for the international Catholic publication The Tablet. A regular commentator on religious issues for the BBC, ITV, and North American stations, Walsh's best-selling books include Pope John Paul II: A Biography, Lives of the Popes, and the Dictionary of Christian Biography. He and his wife Kathie have two grown daughters and live in North London.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Sheed & Ward; 1st Sheed & Ward Pbk. Ed edition (June 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158051135X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580511353
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Michael Walsh's summary history of papal elections moves remarkably quickly: 2,000 years in under 200 pages. Popes are chosen, only to die quickly -- sometimes in the very next sentence. So this is not in any sense a history of the papacy. The author has focused his attention quite narrowly, and for general readers looking for an introduction to this interesting and timely topic, he has succeeded admirably.

Walsh's text emphasizes the changing dynamics involved in papal elections over the centuries, including the waxing and waning of various political and popular influences. Although Church doctrine says the Holy Spirit chooses the next Bishop of Rome (and the machinations of plotters have often been defeated in surprising ways), more earthly and secular powers have had big roles to play too. Though it's not always easy to decipher the backroom politicking or strong-arming, the author has sorted facts and speculation into a very readable history. Though specialist historians will no doubt be left wanting something more in-depth, and I for one deeply regretted the absence of an index, most general readers will probably find this gives them a good comprehensive overview.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a short book, which is unfortunate, given the period of time that it covers: all of the papal elections from the beginning of the Church until the present. Because of the timeline, and the books lack of length, everything is really compressed, and the reader only gets the barest sense of what happened during many of these elections, particularly in the very early days. That's not actually a bad thing, for it certainly whets the appetite of the interested reader to delve further into period histories and do some research on his own. I like that in a book, for it encourages scholarship. That being said, this book is well worth reading even for the smattering of information it gives about these "elections". As one who grew up in parochial schools in the '50s, and was taught by the good sisters that the election of the Pope was inspired by the Holy Spirit, this dosage of truth is quite eye opening! Power politics, family connections, money and assorted other things all contributed, at one time or another, to the outcome of an election. Nothing about hanging chads, however, which was a relief! Despite all of it, the Church has seemed to survive its different leaders, for better or worse, down through the last two centuries. Perhaps then, the nuns were right, and the Holy Spirit has been looking after all of us. Read the book, and decide for yourself!
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Format: Hardcover
This dry inventory of the Holy See is likely well researched, and accurate. Lost though is any sense of compassion. Even the low wit is obvious and, and telegraphed. I read this as the drama of JPII unfolded, and thus provided to me a unique perspective. I think I should pass. The Throne over humanity seems to be taking a backseat to the audio and video bytes that accompany tragedy. The shoes of the fisherman should not be trivialized for ratings. Walsh's tour of Catholicsim left me empty, and unenthused. 3 stars for the depth of his research.
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