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Book Review: The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vatican II–The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church by Greg Tobin

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The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vatican II–The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church by Greg Tobin is a biography of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Pope. John XXIII is credited with helping modernize the Catholic Church even though he only served as Pope from 1958 to 1963.

I wanted to read The Good Pope because I am very unfamiliar with the Catholic dogma and beliefs. Being brought up Jewish I can also not comprehend the elevated status to the Pope in the eyes of mortal men as well as the whole idea of elevating a man into the status of “saint.”

I found it fascinating to read about the different factions within the Catholic church which I never knew existed. The whole “liberals” vs. “conservatives” division was explained very well without dissenting into blame or divisiveness, as Mr. Tobin is simply telling a story (and a good one at that) without taking sides; of course, the reader gets to see events more clearly from the point of view of the subject of the book.

I learned a lot from The Good Pope, not only about John XXIII, but also about the Christian religion in general and the Catholic sect specifically. However, many of the terms are “technical” which I never heard of and had to look up many of them and then re-read the section to understand them within context.

That being said, the book is very readable, easy to read on a very likeable subject. I got the impression that John XXIII/ Angelo Roncalli was truly a very good man, a strong Pope who kept his “priest in the trenches” priorities while holding the highest level in his occupation. An unglamorous man who was truly a man-of-G-d first and a politician second.

One of John XXIII greatest achievements, outside of providing spiritual guidance for individuals, was convening the Second Vatican Council which was trying to reform the church. The Second Council’s agenda was to open the religion to the modern world while preserving the core traditions, a very difficult mission especially with the conservatives within the Vatican fighting tooth and nail against those reforms.

The Good Pope is an authoritative biography of a poor peasant who became Pope, a man full of humility, goodness, and a healthy sense of humor which helped him greatly throughout his ordeals, diplomatic missions and facing his opponents. Filled with personal passages from Roncalli’s journal, the book is an amazing insight into a man whose short tenure left a large legacy.

  • 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062089439

Buy this book in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.

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