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God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church Hardcover – November 1, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The biographer of Pope John Paul II (Witness to Hope) chronicles the transition between John Paul's papacy and that of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, in this blend of history, biography, analysis and forecasting. Readers familiar with John Paul's papacy will be tempted to skip over the first three chapters summarizing the late pope's life, plunging instead into what Weigel has to say about the new pontiff and how he was elected in one of the shortest conclaves in papal history. Of particular interest is Weigel's diary of the conclave, which combines his own observations with those of journalists, Vatican officials and cardinal-electors, none of whom, he attests, violated the oath of confidentiality in talking with him. His insights into Benedict are compelling and defy the caricature of the former cardinal as "God's Rottweiler." In a look toward the future church Benedict has the potential to shape, Weigel suggests the new pope is not likely to bring about revolutionary change in the area of liturgy and theological dissent, but could introduce reforms in such areas as Vatican diplomacy, the curial structure and the selection of bishops. The author's access to sources in and around the Vatican paired with his accessible writing style make this good reading for a broad audience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

One of the foremost biographers of Pope John Paul II (Witness to Hope, 1999) has five objectives in this exemplary book: to chronicle John Paul's last days, to assess the church as John Paul left it, to report the deliberations of the conclave that elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to succeed John Paul, to sketch the new pope's career and personality, and to suggest what Benedict XVI's papacy could bring. Weigel adopts a different manner for each objective. He is a magisterial historian for John Paul's decline and death, an authoritative analyst of the state of the church, a creative journalist reporting about the conclave (literally creative: this part of the book appears in diary form), a judicious profiler in his precis on Ratzinger, and an interested counselor in his prognostications. Most impressive is the treatment of the end of John Paul's reign as a drama of reciprocal love between the pope and the church--indeed, the world--that climaxes in the cries of "Magnus" ("great") and "Santo subito" (roughly, "sainthood now") that interrupt the papal funeral. Only Weigel's advocational forecasting seems a little wanting. Curial reform, better-coordinated Vatican communications, reestablishing bishops' pastoral responsibilities, principled rapprochement with still-Communist China and conflict-laden Islam, and other good things are nice to encourage. But Weigel says nothing about one of the most important themes of John Paul's papacy, the church's teachings on social justice, prominently including the just wage (one sufficient for one worker to support a family and modestly save). Certainly John Paul's right-hand man for 24 years, Cardinal Ratzinger, won't ignore those teachings, though neoconservative fellow traveler Weigel may wish he would. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066213312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066213316
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John M. Grondelski on November 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"As the news [of John Paul's death] cascaded around the world, millions felt orphaned. In a world bereft of paternity and its unique combination of strength and mercy, John Paul II had become a father to countless men and women living in an almost infinite variety of human circumstances and cultures. That radiation of fatherhood . . . was rooted in the Pope's singular capacity to preach and embody the Christian Gospel . . . " (p. 25).

Millions of people will long be able to pinpoint where they were the moment, on April 2, 2005, when they learned that Pope John Paul II had returned to his Father. The masses that converged on Rome for his funeral were a "gathering of the family," as papal biographer George Weigel put it. But these were no ordinary papal obsequies; many Catholics experienced the unique and yawning personal loss felt when a father dies. "'You feel smaller when your father dies because he was strong and lifted you, carried you and taught you, and when he's gone, the room feels too big without him'" (p. 99).

God's Choice details the last days of Pope John Paul II and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. The book is both retrospective and prospective, trying to sum up the achievements of the Pope Weigel unabashedly (and rightly) calls "the Great," while seeking to anticipate the challenges facing his successor. Weigel argues that John Paul II rejuvenated the Church, making holiness exciting and appealing, especially to the young. He recaptured the true meaning of Vatican II, taking it back from those who hijacked the Council's "spirit" in the name of various dead end agendas. Weigel does not deny that the Church has problems but, in hindsight, the Church is 2005 is far more vigorous that some might have thought back in 1978.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read a number of books about the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, and they clearly have a common template: chronicle John Paul II's final illness; describe the state of the Church at the time of his death; review the history of conclaves and the changes introduced by John Paul; recount the events of the conclave itself; provide a capsule biography of Joseph Ratzinger; assess the future of the Church with particular emphasis on the challenges the new pontiff faces. George Weigel's book fits that template. But if the form is unremarkable, the content is worth paying attention to.

I'm a fan of journalist and author John L. Allen, and so I readily admit to a tendency to compare other writers' books on the Vatican to the excellent works Allen has produced. "God's Choice" stands up to that comparison quite well. Weigel's book (and I admit to not [yet] having read any of the author's other works) is less journalistic than Allen's, with both more style in the writing and a more obvious and personal point of view. The title of this review comes from one of Weigel's subheads (on page 240), and while he applies it to the new pope, I'm happy to appropriate it to describe Weigel as well. He clearly comes from the conservative side of the American church, and is not at all hesitant about criticizing journalists like E.J. Dionne for their caricatured portraits of "God's Rottweiler" and what his election implies about the future of the Church.

Where I found Weigel's book particularly interesting was in his analysis of the challenges facing the new pope. While most of the template-books struck me as fairly superficial in this area, Weigel really gave it some thought. I predict it's this section readers may find most interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
With very little theological background, I can only comment this book from a simple roman catholic faithfull point of view. And it is with a deep feel of comfort that I finished the last page. The loss of JP The Great is seen under an old but scarcely mentioned light: the communion of saints. Introducing Benedict XVI as the Pope God chose and discovered as such by the electors Cardinals gave me enourmous pride to belong to the Catholic Church. The author led me through JP's funeral with talent and some very helpful insights, allowing me to discover new meanings to the loss of JP The Great and the election of Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. The chapters referring to the future of the Church and the tasks the new Pope must surely undertake are magnificent and sure to keep everyone thinking, and doubtless make catholics pray fervently for Benedicts XVI's intentions and health. I can not recommend it enough.
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Format: Paperback
God's Choice was not quite what I expected. It doesn't take a detailed look at Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, until after the first 300 pages. Prior to that we get a narrative of the last days of Pope John Paul II, the world's reaction to his death and funeral Mass, and a detailed account of the conclave, the process of electing the new pope. Though it's partially instructive about Ratzinger and the Church, the first half serves as a fitting memorial to one of the most popular popes of all time.

Weigel writes as an admirer and as one who has a firm grasp of the subject matter. The detail and analysis are amazing. Anyone wanting to know the state of the Catholic Church and the current issues facing it will benefit from reading this book. Without delving too deeply into doctrinal issues, it shows that the new pope will stay the course set by John Paul.

The average person may find some of the detail and subject matter a bit tedious. It could have been more concise, but Catholics, academics, clergy and those who want to know as much as possible will not be disappointed. Weigel knows and understands the issues so well that he anticipates how the new pope will act. He even provides some wise counsel.

The book leaves the impression that Joseph Ratzinger was the best choice for the job. It's hard to imagine a better successor. He knows the Catholic Church and is able to represent and work with all the different members. He's not as charismatic as John Paul, but as the author points out, it was personal integrity and his ability to face challenge that drew people to the former pope. Pope Benedict has the same qualities.

The media characterization of Benedict as "God's Rottweiler" is unfair.
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