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by Paul Vallely

From his first appearance on a Vatican balcony Pope Francis proved himself a Pope of Surprises. With a series of potent gestures, history's first Jesuit pope declared a mission to restore authenticity and integrity to a Catholic Church bedevilled by sex abuse and secrecy, intrigue and in-fighting, ambition and arrogance. He declared it should be 'a poor Church, for the poor'.But there is a hidden past to this modest man with the winning smile. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was previously a bitterly divisive figure. His decade as leader of Argentina's Jesuits left the religious order deeply split. And his behaviour during Argentina's Dirty War, when military death squads snatched innocent people from the streets, raised serious questions – on which this book casts new light.Yet something dramatic then happened to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He underwent an extraordinary transformation. After a time of exile he re-emerged having turned from a conservative authoritarian into a humble friend of the poor – and became Bishop of the Slums, making enemies among Argentina's political classes in the process. For Pope Francis – Untying the Knots, Paul Vallely travelled to Argentina and Rome to meet Bergoglio's intimates over the last four decades. His book charts a remarkable journey. It reveals what changed the man who was to become Pope Francis – from a reactionary into the revolutionary who is unnerving Rome's clerical careerists with the extent of his behind-the-scenes changes. In this perceptive portrait Paul Vallely offers both new evidence and penetrating insights into the kind of pope Francis could become.

Download Pope Francis: Untying the Knots epub
ISBN: 1472903706
ISBN13: 978-1472903709
Category: Bibles
Subcategory: Catholicism
Author: Paul Vallely
Language: English
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 7.2.2013 edition (September 24, 2013)
Pages: 240 pages
ePUB size: 1112 kb
FB2 size: 1218 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 100
Other Formats: mobi docx rtf lit

This biography of Pope Francis explores his stunning worldwide impact, but it also a portrait "warts and all", making it far more interesting than a simpler story would be. Before reading a biography (particularly a popular biography) one should ask who wrote it. The answer here is reassuring. The author, an internationally respected British journalist, has decades of experience covering many issues including religion. This is is his second book on the Pope. The first, "Pope Francis: Untying the Knots" came out in 2013, less than six months after the Pope's election. The first eight chapters of this book update the earlier work (those who have read it, please take note) : the last nine chapters are new material.

Vallely begins with the Argentine background of the Pope (then Jorge Bergoglio), through his entry into the Jesuit order, and then to Bergoglio's rapid rise and chequered career in the Jesuit order in Argentina. Two major issues arise in regard to that. First, and most widely discussed, Bergoglio was suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of two Jesuits by Argentina's dictatorial government in the 1970's. Vallely argues convincingly that the accusation was not justified, but does suggest that Bergoglio's relationship with the dictatorship caused him great anguish. Second, Bergoglio became a divisive figure in the Jesuit order in Argentina, because of his lack of enthusiasm for the stress on social justice that had become a central thrust of the order. In consequence, he was removed from his office in the order, and did not return to the forefront of religious life until he became Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992. These two crises, Vallely argues, led to a period of spiritual struggle for Bergoglio, out of which he emerged a changed man. He has always been noted for humility in external matters, but Vallely believes that he became far less authoritarian and far more socially-oriented. Very few people really learn from their mistakes: the Pope seems to be one who has.

The second part of the book looks at what Francis has accomplished -- and failed to accomplish -- since assuming the Papacy. Here, Vallely shows that the record is mixed. When he came to office, the Church faced two great scandals. Francis has had great success in cleaning up the first of these -- the Vatican's finances and financial institutions, a morass that other Popes have been unable to drain. He has accomplished much less in dealing with the issue of sexual abuse of children by priests and other religious. That, and the Pope's less than convincing efforts to reach out to women as a group, are treated by Vallely as major failure.

More broadly, Francis' clear intent is to create Church that is more open, more approachable, and more focussed on the poor than the one he inherited. Here, it is too soon to say whether he has succeeded or failed, but the effort is inspiring. He is trying to reform the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that has become a bastion of self-interest. He is trying to reflect the fact that most Catholics are no longer European in the leadership of the Church. He is trying to focus the Church more on mercy, outreach, and help for the poor, and less on doctrine. This does not, as many liberals would like to think, mean that the Pope is about to change Church teachings on key social issues, but it does mean that he wants to see them approached in a different way -- as occasions of mercy, rather than condemnation.

Overall, the Pope is presented as a remarkable person -- not a simple person, but one who has learned from his mistakes, and who is using his extraordinary political gifts to serve a program that is aimed at making Catholicism more embracing, more vibrant, and more focussed on making life better for the poor. Though I am not a Catholic (I am not even religious) I found this to be an inspiring book: it made my admiration for the Pope seem much more firmly based.
Phallozs Dwarfs
I found this biography both enjoyable and informative.

The book title is taken from an eighteenth-century oil painting by Johann George Schmidtner: Mary Untier of Knots. Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) from Argentina came upon the original when he visited a church in Augsburg, Germany in 1986. It spoke so forcefully to him that he hung a copy of the painting in the suburban church of San José del Telar in Buenos Aires. “Untying the knots” of his life is the theme that biographer Paul Vallely, a journalist and activist on international development, has chosen as the backbone for his understanding of the interior life of Pope Francis.

Indeed, Vallely successfully portrays Pope Francis to be a tough and complex person who has lived a turbulent life formed amidst the dictatorship of 1976-83 in Argentina. An understanding of the moral challenges that Father Bergoglio faced is essential to understanding the man. Vallely clearly describes the forces that polarized Argentine society during the Dirty War of the military’s anti-communist agenda: the Left that was secularist, anti-clerical, and anti-Church versus the Right that espoused Catholicism. To complicate matters Liberation Theology was emerging and the Vatican was imposing a crackdown upon empowerment of the poor. Father Bergoglio lived in the midst of all these forces.

In addition to describing the forces that formed Father Bergoglio and how he responded to them, Vallely addresses the changes that occurred in Father Bergoglio after the dictatorship, which transformed the man from an unyielding, domineering leader during the dictatorship into a strong but tender Pope who demonstrates a good sense of the realities of power and the courage to act on that sense.

As an added delight, Vallely supplies a timeline of Pope Francis’ life that gives a clear snapshot of the important events that formed and transformed him.

I highly recommend this book, not only to Roman Catholics, but also to all who are interested in the biographies of the leaders in our contemporary world.
Great book. Sorry for such a short review.

Cool to realize that this man, when he calls himself a "sinner", is actually referring to real deeds he did. "Back in the day", he personally persecuted and/or suppressed folks (priests) who, for example, wanted to live in the slums with the poor, ministering. Now he advocates just that. Does that make him a hypocrite? Not in my view. Rather, it makes him human.

I love Francis even more, now that I have read this book.
Using the metaphor of the "Madonna of the Knots", the author vividly describes the complexities of experiences that contributed to the thinking, actions, and philosophy of Jorge Bergoglio before he was elected as leader of the global Catholic Church. Now known as Pope Francis, he has earned recognition for his humility, joy, and concern for the whole human family on this endangered planet. I recommend this book for providing relevant family, education, and leadership challenges, interesting development context for the post-election actions (2013+) of his reign. I'm glad that I read this before the more recent publication of "The Great Reformer" which is the only English language bio of Pope Francis (that I could find) that describes his emphasis on redirecting the institutional Church during his first 15 months of his tenure..