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The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church Hardcover – June 7, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Pope Benedict XVI walked onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on April 19, it was the first time that many people had ever heard of him. But for the last 24 years, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was a celebrity in Catholic circles, widely known for his intellectual prowess and his role as the Vatican's notorious defender of the faith. Allen's book seeks to fill in the blanks about the man known in the media as "God's rottweiler," revealing a person who cannot be summarized in a catchphrase. But this book isn't just an examination of the new pope's Christian principles; it is also a glimpse into the inner machinations of the Vatican, which Allen covers for the National Catholic Reporter and from time to time on CNN. Drawing on his many sources—including eight cardinals who participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict—Allen gives a play-by-play assessment of how the pope was chosen and what he might have in store for the church's 1.1 billion followers. Readers who want a cloak-and-dagger political whodunit should look elsewhere. Allen's book is much smarter than that; it's a rich and thoughtful analysis of the present-day Catholic Church and its complex new spiritual leader. (June 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for John L. Allen, Jr.’s, Conclave

“An invaluable primer . . . highly informative.” —Washington Post

“Definitely a winner.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“It’s surprising how much you learn from this book . . . [Allen] explain[s] the process in an engaging way, and offers history, context and his own list of front-runners.” —Arizona Republic

Praise for John L. Allen, Jr.’s, All the Pope’s Men

“[A] superb book” —Chicago Sun-Times

“The National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent John L. Allen, Jr., unpacks several popular myths as well as the psychology, sociology, and theology that inform the Holy See’s worldview. But All the Pope’s Men is not a polemic. It’s a patient look at Vatican ways of thinking and acting.” —San Antonio Express-News

“An exceedingly valuable book.” —Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things

“By turns enlightening and highly amusing, the book deserves a wide readership.”

“ . . . this dispassionate book is the best written about the Vatican in a long time and belongs on the desk of every editor and religion writer in the English-speaking world.”
—Andrew Greeley, National Catholic Reporter

“An informative and readable look at Vatican structures, policies, and personalities . . . filled with useful data and engaging anecdotes.” —Crisis Magazine

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion; 1st edition (June 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385513203
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,231,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There's this thing called the "historian's fallacy," wherein anything that happens can be seen, retrospectively, as having been inevitable. And on one reading of John L. Allen's "The Rise of Benedict XVI," you'd be able to make a case that the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy was pretty much inevitable. But it's to Allen's credit as a journalist that he doesn't succumb to the "historian's fallacy." In fact, I think he makes a good case that Ratzinger's election was not only not inevitable, but in some ways even more revolutionary than the election of Karol Wojtyla in 1978.

Prior to the 2005 conclave, conventional wisdom made Ratzinger's election look pretty unlikely. One "what's going to happen at the next conclave" book by a well-known writer on Catholic topics even said flat out, "Although Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ... is a highly regarded theologian and intellectual, he is one of the least likely to be elected pope."

What made Ratzinger's election happen -- and the discussion of which makes this such an interesting book -- is what Allen calls "the funeral effect." Although leaders of the Roman Catholic Church knew Pope John Paul II was popular, it wasn't until they saw first-hand the world's response to his death that they realized the transforming effect he had on the Church's position in the world. Conventional wisdom said that the College of Cardinals would probably select a quiet, pastoral type with solid administrative skills to allow the Church some "breathing room" to process and assess the legacy of John Paul. But "the funeral effect" made it clear that the Church -- and the pope in particular -- now had a spot on the world stage that could not be filled by a largely unknown "smiling pope" like John Paul I.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book surprisingly satisfying for being "instant history" -- in print less than two months after the conclave selecting Pope Benedect XVI. John Allen does present an insider view in the sense of someone who covers the Vatican, knows the players and the issues. I wasn't left wanting for much, except perhaps more about Benedict's views on the decline of vocations and the corresponding rise in lay leadership as deacons and ecclesial ministers. My curiosity about his views on women sent me to the last chapter early. The only chapter a bit difficult for the nontheologian was "Battling a `Dictatorship of Relativism,'" but it is worth rereading passages to fully understand our new pope's world view. On the whole I think Allen succeeded in presenting a balanced view of recent historical events and of the new pope. I have a greater appreciation for the former Cardinal Ratzinger's gifts and his potential to grow into an entirely new role. I'm sure I will pick up this book often in months and years to come to help me understand the context of new developments in the church.
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Format: Hardcover
John Allen, author of Conclave, another book on Roman Catholicism's governing traditions, delivers this fine study of the recent transition from the sad last days of Pope John Paul II, to the nascent reign of one of the most intellectually-bright and morally intractable men ever to occupy the Holy See: Pope Benedict XVI.

Allen's work is partly a biography of Joseph Ratzinger's life up to his elevation to the Papacy last spring, and part study of the workings of the modern Church. Allen discusses at length the politics that put a conservative German Cardinal into religion's highest office, and also presents an educated guess at how the Pontificate of Benedict XVI might unfold. I think the most telling foreshadowing of what this man might concentrate on in his reign is detailed on page 174 of the hardcover edition in a chapter entitled, "The Gravest Problem Of Our Time". This crisis, according to Pope Benedict, is "relativism" a view common in the modern west and which has brought about unwavering criticism from Ratzinger as a priest, Cardinal and now as Pope. Basically Benedict argues that truth and morals, having being crafted by God and defined by Jesus, are neither mutable nor subject to the varying interpretations of humankind in each and every age. Benedict is deeply troubled by the popularity of the concept that each human must decide on personal morals, rather than trusting in the morality pre-defined by the Church, that steadfast custodian of Christ's teachings.
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Format: Hardcover
One commentator called this book 'instant history', and to a certain extent, that is true - the interregnum between John Paul II (the Great?) and Benedict XVI was very brief, the Conclave short, but the road leading up to these events were well established and well documented, often by author John J. Allen, Jr. himself. Allen is the author of many books on this topic, include a book entitled 'Conclave', written several years ago in anticipation of the Conclave from earlier this year (2005). He also has written books on the College of Cardinals and other Vatican officials, Opus Dei, and numerous articles on various papal and Vatican subjects in his capacity as a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Allen brings all of this background to bear with his good insight and accessible journalistic style to describing the events from the final days of John Paul II to the papal election ('Habemus Papam!'). These are presented in an interesting section with sensitive and compassionate writing about the final days and funeral of the late pontiff.

With regard to the election process itself, Allen presents many fascinating details, including a litany of conventional wisdom facts that Ratzinger/Benedict seemed to shatter. These include:

* he who goes into the Conclave a pope comes out a cardinal

* the cardinals from outside Rome would not elect a Curia insider

* the cardinals would not elect someone closely identified with the previous pope

* the cardinals would not elect someone from Europe, where the church is increasingly in decline

* the church would not elevate someone close to 80 to begin such a major ministry.
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