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Conclave: The Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election Paperback – June 11, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Timely, informative, and engaging, this volume offers a popular and understandable review of the details involved in a papal election. Written by Vatican correspondent Allen (Cardinal Radzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith), the book is free of ecclesiastical jargon, save for some essential concepts, which are adequately addressed in the glossary. Allen begins with a 30-page job description for the next pope, then addresses several key issues that remain unresolved for John Paul II and will likely weigh heavily on the minds of the electing cardinals. The issues include collegiality, ecumenism, globalization, bioethics, and women's role in the Church. The dynamics of the conclave are discussed step by step, from the announcement of a papal illness through the first days of the new pope's reign. Political parties or camps among the cardinal electors are amply presented. Lastly, 20 leading front-running cardinals are named and profiled, while those in the "rest of the field" are each given a brief paragraph of introduction. Allen is scheduled to be an expert analyst for the Fox News network during the next conclave. Recommended for all libraries. John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin, Platteville
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Veteran Vatican correspondent Allen offers a quasi-insider's guide to the next papal election. A fascinating, highly charged political process with both corporeal and spiritual consequences, a conclave of the College of Cardinals is convened in Rome immediately after the death of a pope in order to fill the power vacuum as expeditiously as possible. After describing the responsibilities and the duties of a pope, the author outlines the hot-button issues sure to make a significant impact on the papal election process. Individual chapters devoted to detailing how the conclave itself works, the various political factions currently present in the College of Cardinals, and the probable candidates are also included. Considering the failing health of Pope John Paul II and the current crisis of confidence and leadership in the Roman Catholic Church, the next papal election is sure to be a hot topic among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Image (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385504535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385504539
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,731,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Quido VINE VOICE on July 22, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author John L. Allen, Jr. is a correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter. He has penned a biography of controversial Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Vatican, and has already contracted to cover the future election of the new Pope for Fox News. Many Americans cannot remember the media focus and the world attention that the death of a popular Pope and the election of a new Cardinal to fill "the shoes of the fisherman" draw, since the event has not happened since 1978. Allen gives us a stunning view of the likely scenarios, issues and the potential for transformation that the Catholic Church faces as John Paul II's days as the most powerful leader in the Christian world draw to a close.
From Allen, we get the history of the papacy and the relevance of the way today's church works. He presents issues of bioethics, the church's positions on celibacy and sexuality, the need for church collegiality throughout the world, the need to balance centrist Vatican powers with the role of the world's bishops, and many current Catholic doctrines that will be continued or changed, depending on the election of the new Pope. He presents a dignified and on the mark representation of John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul I and II. He is both informative and relevant on the ceremonies that will transpire when the current Pope dies, without leaving any sense of a "lameduck" status for the existing Papacy and Vatican staff.
It's noteworthy that Allen tries to stay neutral on the current stand of the church on the issues, and on his introduction of the conclave participants - the world's cardinals. There is a little liberal and reform bias here, but he is careful to point it out.
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There is a vertiable sub-genre of books anticipating, analyzing, and seeking to influence the next conclave. John Allen's highly readable "Conclave" is the latest installment; specifically, it follows in the footsteps of Margaret Hebblethwaite's extensive 2000 revision of her late husband's "The Next Pope." Other books in the genre come in the form of political science (Father Thomas J. Reese's "Inside the Vatican"), quasi-history (Gary Wills' "Hitler's Pope," Francis Burkle-Young's "Passing the Keys"), and fiction (Edward Sheehan's elegant "Cardinal Galsworthy," Father Andrew Greeley's paper-thin "White Smoke," Malachi Martin's "Windswept House").

Both Allen and Hebblethwaite are votaries of the "Catholic left," and share an agenda that seeks to conform (or "reform") 2000 years of Church doctrine, discipline and tradition to the political agenda of the contemporary cultural left. This involves the "devolution" or "decentralization" of authority in the Church, and greater "innovation" and "experimentation" with Catholic doctrine. The Church is an instrument to achieve political ambitions: moral decentralization coupled with political centralization, the Netherlands writ worldwide. Above all else, success in this program lies in electing a "reformist" Pope, someone who "gets it," as the saying goes. Allen's chapter on "Voting Issues" is understandable in this context. But to his credit he gives some space to fairly describing the reasoning of those who defend traditional Church teachings.

Allen's chapter on "How the Conclave Works" is also quite good.
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Format: Paperback
. . .but marred in places by the author's political viewpoint.
"Conclave" is a well-written and informative book about exactly "how" the Catholic Church will go about selecting the new Pope upon the passing of Pope John Paul II. The author, a Rome-based journalist, has already been selected by Fox News as their correspondent and "expert" when the time comes. Especially helpful is the "step-by-step" description of what happens in the Vatican from the moment the Pope dies straight through his Coronation Mass. Also helpful is the information concerning the various "political parties" within the College of Cardinals and useful biographies of those Cardinals whom the author sees as papabile (those for whom election is possible).
Less helpful, and indeed off-putting, was the author's obvious bias toward the left wing of the Catholic hierarchy. This is seen, not only in his direct comments, but also in his subtle ridicule of conservative Cardinals. This ridicule is usually effected by the relating of "humorous" anecdotes which serve to make conservative Cardinals look silly. The more a Cardinal is portrayed as a moderate or liberal, the less likely the ridicule.
Other than this bit of childishness, the book is a valuable tool. But the conservative or traditionalist reader will have (many) moments of (great) annoyance.
Three stars.
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Sadly, with the passing of Pope John Paul II yesterday, this book has suddenly become topical. Many people will likely be looking for resources to give them some clue as to what happens next. In particular, how is the next pope chosen? Many people may be familiar with the term "conclave" but many not be certain as to what it all really entails. This book spells it out quite well.

A thin volume, of particular interest is chapter 3, "How the Conclave Works". Mr. Allen, a longtime reporter on Catholic issues, does an excellent job of taking us through the steps from the moment of John Paul's death through the process of the election of his successor. However, this book actually does much more as one might expect from someone conversant with the working of the Vatican. There are chapters detailing the duties of the popes, the issues facing the electors and some of the factions within the college of cardinals. He also has some interesting points to make about how the intense media scrutiny of this election will effect things for the better and for the worse.

The weakness of the book, of course, is that it is somewhat dated. Written three years ago now, the chapter on "the candidates" could use an update. Also, the child abuse scandal that has rocked the Church in the past couple years needs to be addressed. However, it is somewhat surprising how few of the names have changed: some have aged beyond eligibility, some have passed and some have changed jobs, but a surprising number have remained basically unchanged. The Church is nothing if not slow to change.

In this time of change, it is nice to know that there is someplace to go for answers to the basic questions. Mr. Allen has provided some of the answers for us and I recommend this book as a useful tool to understanding the days ahead.
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