The Vatican Diaries

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heartof the Catholic Church

John Thavis - Author

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ISBN 9781101606308 | 352 pages | 21 Feb 2013 | Penguin | 18 - AND UP
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The New York Times–bestselling inside look at one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years, John Thavis held one of the most remarkable journalistic assignments in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. In The Vatican Diaries, Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place struggling to define itself in the face of internal and external threats, where Curia cardinals fight private wars and sexual abuse scandals threaten to undermine papal authority. Thavis also takes readers through the politicking behind the election of Pope Francis and what we might expect from his papacy. The Vatican Diaries is a perceptive, compelling, and provocative account of this singular institution and will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the challenges faced by religion in an increasingly secularized world.

"Wonder what's going on behind those huge doors at the Vatican? Wonder what those cardinals are up to as they scurry about getting ready to elect a new pope? Wonder what the man who rings the bells when that new pope is finally elected is thinking? Thavis answers all in this fascinating book."
-USA Today
"A veritable handbook on all things Vatican."
-The Daily Beast
"A thoughtful meditation on recent papal administrations and the bureaucrats, functionaries, and emissaries who advance or thwart Rome’s global ambitions."
-New York Journal of Books
"Most fascinating is Thavis' generous assessment of Benedict XVI, whom he sees as an almost tragic figure."
-The New Yorker
"Thavis’s Vatican Diaries is well worth putting on your Amazon wish list."
"[The Vatican Diaries] succeeds well in presenting the Roman Curia as a flesh-and-blood community, a byzantine theater of the sacred."
-National Catholic Reporter
"Entertaining and readable."
-Publishers Weekly
"A lively book that's steeped in history and personality."
-The Eagle Tribune
“Thavis has offered this rare, perceptive and highly readable glimpse into a power structure that is less in control than many would have us believe.”
"Illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike."
-Kirkus Reviews
"An American Catholic who has done his homework, learned Latin and Italian, made friends in high places, found his way for thirty years in the maze of Church bureaucracy, gives us a humane and realistic and (yes) humorous picture of a mortal institution that guides hundreds of millions of mortals along the path from birth to death and beyond. To an old Prot like me, it's a tour of alien terrain and a bridge to old and dear friends."   
-Garrison Keillor
Vatican Diaries is a must-read for anyone interested in the Vatican’s role in the Catholic Church and the world.
-Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
"The Vatican Diaries by John Thavis provides us with an intriguing and much needed antidote to one of the most common problems affecting many Catholics and non-Catholics who look at the Vatican these days: the assumption of the cold ruthlessness of the "machine". Thavis shows us also the deeply human side of the Vatican, the last Empire and the last, great theater of the sacred in Western Christianity."
-Massimo Faggioli, University of St. Thomas
"In this highly readable memoir of being a journalist at the Vatican, John Thavis follows the conclaves, sex scandals, internal backstabbing and olympian nature of the popes with a sense of comic relief at the caravan passing through his viewfinder."
-Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church

Here are some things readers will be surprised
to learn from The Vatican Diaries:

  1. Why the St. Peter’s Basilica bell failed to ring when Pope Benedict was elected—part of a fumbled choreography at the last conclave.
  2. Why the trial of the pope’s butler marked a showdown between the advocates of transparency and secrecy in the Vatican—and why the secrecy faction won.
  3. Why Pope Benedict has kept the Legion of Christ religious order on life-support, even as he’s taken steps to publicly denounce its sex-abusing founder.
  4. How a papal sermon against polygamy in Swaziland failed to convince the country’s president, who showed up the for liturgy with several of his wives. (One of several “boys on the bus” tales from papal travels.)
  5. How a theological debate over condom use has quietly simmered inside the Vatican for more than a decade.
  6. Who is the American “fighting nun” behind efforts to beatify Pope Pius XII, and why has the German pope put on the brakes?
  7. How archeologists saved an ancient Roman cemetery after it was sliced through by Vatican bulldozers. And how Pope Benedict ordered a secret archeological probe to find the bones of St. Paul.
  8. Why anonymous Vatican officials routinely take Pope Benedict’s spoken remarks and “edit” them for history.
  9. How Pope Benedict used negotiations with Catholic traditionalists to “move the goalposts” on the Second Vatican Council.
  10. How a free-speaking U.S. Latinist, the Vatican’s sharpest in-house critic, survived four pontificates.
  11. How President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict shared some awkward moments in their last private encounter.
  12. What “Vaticanisti" can and cannot say while they're covering the Vatican. This touches on the question of why no one has written an insider's account like this before—because the book will no doubt antagonize some Vatican officials, and that would be a major handicap for reporters.

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