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Book Reviews: Roman Catholic Popes, Papacy, History

Who or what is the pope? The title pope stems from the Greek word papas, which simply means "father." Early in Christian history it was used as a formal title expressing affectionate respect for any bishop and sometimes even priests. Today it continues to be used in Eastern Orthodox churches for the patriarch of Alexandria.
  1. Popes and the Papacy

Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church
Now that Joseph Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI, his past statements on religion, politics, and the Catholic Church are being examined much more closely. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had significant power and influence, but as pope, he wields even more.

Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium
As Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wrote a number of books on Christian theology. In his role as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had to defend the orthodox positions of the Catholic Church; as a theologian, he could explore religious issues with a bit more freedom.

Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion
Before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was one of the most prolific authors in the Catholic hierarchy. His numerous books, essays, interviews, and speeches covered an amazing range of topics relevant to Catholics and the Catholic Church.

God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald
While still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger gave three book-length interviews in which he was asked wide ranging questions about church history, his own life, politics, and Christian theology. He didn't know the questions in advance and at most only made minor adjustments to his answers after reading them in written form.

Pope Benedict XVI: Intro to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger
Joseph Ratzinger may now be Pope Benedict XVI, but for over 40 years he has been a Catholic theologian. Ratzinger's writings have covered a tremendous amount of territory and his opinions have even seemed to change on a couple of points, but there are a number of common themes that run through all of Ratzinger's arguments.

Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World
It's common to think of Christianity being grounded in the idea of having faith in God, but another and perhaps more accurate way of looking at it is to focus on a covenant with God. Faith is a one-way street while a covenant requires a two-way relationship, thus allowing for very different ways to conceptualize and understand Christianity as a...

Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was an exceptionally divisive and controversial figure in the Catholic Church. As Pope Benedict XVI, he is supposed to be a living symbol of the unity of not just all Catholics, but all Christians in the world. Can he make a credible transition from defender of orthodoxy to pastor of the entire church?

The Rise of Benedict XVI: Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected
People around the world were stunned that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 - and so quickly, too. It's almost unheard of for the College of Cardinals to act so fast or to elect someone who went into the conclave as a front-runner. Many expected a longer debate in order to find some sort of compromise candidate, not a quick decision on an arch-conservative. So what happened?

Let God's Light Shine Forth: The Spiritual Vision of Benedict XVI
Most of the world knows Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal Joseph Ratzigner, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981 and “Enforcer” of Catholic orthodoxy for the entire church. Now that he is pope, however, he needs to show both the Catholic faithful and the rest of the world that he can be much more.

The Pontiff in Winter: Triumph and Conflict in the Reign of John Paul
John Paul II has been one of the longest-lived and most influential popes in the history of the Catholic Church. For good or for ill, his policies and personality have helped shape not only the current character of Catholicism but also the direction Catholicism will take for generations to come. It’s only natural, then, that people would begin trying to evaluate his legacy before he dies.

Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II
The sexual abuse scandal that has hit the Catholic Church has proven to be very serious, but perhaps more serious for the laity than for the hierarchy in the Vatican. While the laity have been forced to reexamine their religious commitments, the hierarchy seem to have done all they can to avoid dealing with the matter.

Conclave: The Next Papal Election
Eventually every pope dies and a successor must be chosen. Although the current methods and traditions would be unrecognizable to the earliest Christian leaders, they have been in place for several hundred years with only minor changes or additions. A better understanding of how a pope is chosen provides important insights on how the papacy works and what a pope’s role ultimately is.

All the Pope's Men: Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Works
The Vatican in Rome can be described as the world's oldest and most mysterious institution. What really goes on behind its walls? How are decisions which affect over a billion Catholics arrived at? What motivates the people who work there - power? Greed? Duty? Few people are qualified to answer such questions because few really know enough to even try.

Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an America Diplomat
World War II was a difficult time for the Roman Catholic Church - thousands of Catholics died and thousands more participated in the killing, not to mention more than a few atrocities. Vatican power was at a low point, and in the aftermath, many questioned whether Pope Pius XII did enough to exercise moral authority to try to stop the Holocaust. What was it like, though, in the Vatican?

Is the Pope Catholic? A Woman Confronts Her Church
To what degree has Pope John Paul II been faithful to important Catholic teachings and traditions? That might sound like an odd question: if anyone would be faithful to Catholic teachings. it should be the pope, and if anyone has been exceedingly traditional, it has been Pope John Paul II. Appearances, however, can be deceptive - perhaps there...

Papal Sin: The Structures of Deceit
There was a time when Catholics knew that their popes were human and very capable of sinning - even egregiously. But Catholics also had faith in the institution of their Church to eventually overcome the problems of any one person. Today, however, a cult of personality has developed around the current pope, and the independent authority of...

The Pope's Armada
Are the ultratraditionalist movements in the Roman Catholic Church gaining more or less power? Is their influence over Church politics and the lives of Catholics growing stronger, or weaker? These are the sorts of questions which underlie Gordon Urquhart's project in his book The Pope's Armada.

Popes Against the Jews
Just what role, if any, did the Roman Catholic Church play in the development of anti-semitism during the modern era? This is a serious question, because the answer to it also helps us answer the question of what sort of culpability the Roman Catholic Church has for the eventual Holocaust and deaths of millions of Jews.

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