One of our long-time parishioners here at St. Therese, Ms. Joan Galles, provided a review of a book on Pope Francis to the magazine Catholic Woman for their Spring 2014 issue. Joan has graciously agreed to provide a copy of her review for this week’s Pastor’s Corner. It appears below and is excellent. Based in no small part on her review, I will be taking this book with me on vacation!
by Matthew E. Bunson (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013)
Reviewed by Joan Galles, Portland OR ACCW Yearbook Editor
In a talk before the World Wide Seminary Annual Gathering in Portland, Oregon, at St. Therese Parish, Matthew Bunson stated that he had identified Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a person of papal interest in 2005 when Benedict XVI was elected. Thus he began observing and perhaps collecting information about the man who in 2013 was suddenly catapulted to the Papacy upon resignation of Pope Benedict.
Matthew Bunson is the senior correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor and thus in his talk displayed an amazing amount of insider information about the workings of the Catholic Church and its leaders. So upon the election of Pope Francis, he quickly gathered his resources to write this initial documentary about the resignation, the election and the first days of Pope Francis’ papacy.
The book opens with the announcement of Benedict’s resignation at a consistory of Cardinals in Rome on February 11, 2013. Citing issues related to his age, the former Pontiff expressed a desire to complete his years "in a life dedicated to prayer." "The cardinals looked on in silence. This had not happened in 598 years." The world’s reaction, the reaction of Church leaders (most of whom supported Benedict’s decision), his own further discussion about his plans, his stay at Castel Gondolfo for the summer and return in the Fall to a remodeled convent on the Vatican grounds where he would live somewhat quietly in seclusion, occupied the world’s attention for a couple of months. Pope Benedict XVI would depart the Vatican on February 28, 2013, leaving the Holy See vacant.
The next few chapters of Bunson’s book describe the preparation and arrival of all the cardinals, most of whom were eligible to vote. (You may not vote in the Conclave after age 80.) Cardinal Bergoglio was a few years older now and not necessarily on the immediate radar of the media watching the Vatican and offering their predictions. Argentina was a long way away and not a hot spot. But among other things, Bergoglio was Italian parentage, giving the large Italian vote a place to go. And he was well liked.
The passing of a Pope and the election of a new Pope focuses the world’s attention on Rome. For these important events the world’s media come out like stars for a Hollywood premier.
Mr. Bunson’s book discusses in great detail the thinking of many of the potential candidates (men who have risen as potential world leaders in the Church). He quotes many of them, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York who said, "Look for a man who reminds you of Jesus."
The author provides a detailed biographical sketch of Cardinal Bergoglio: his early family life in Buenos Aires, his life in Argentina as a child of Italian Immigrants, his vocation, his decision to become a Jesuit, and his rise in the Argentine church. He had not lived extensively in Rome, though he had studied abroad. Most of his clerical life has been in Argentina against the backdrop of its sometimes harsh and dangerous politics.
The next chapters quote many of the speeches that Pope Francis delivered in his early days, speeches which allowed the faithful to begin to know and understand who he is. In his March 15th address to the Cardinals, Pope Francis said, "Let us not yield to pessimism or discouragement: let us be quite certain that the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church, with his powerful breath, the courage to persevere."