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“John XXIII was, in the best possible sense, a revolutionary—a Pope of modernization who kept in continuity with the church’s past, yet made even the most enlightened of his 20th century predecessors seem like voices of another age.”
Time magazine

“The story of Good Pope John is always worth telling….Greg Tobin tells it very well. As we wait for better days, this story will help to keep hope alive.”
—Thomas Groome, Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College, author of Will There Be Faith

Published in the 50th anniversary year of the historic Vatican Council II, The Good Pope by Greg Tobin is the first major biography of Pope John XXIII, a universally beloved religious leader who ushered in an era of hope and openness in the Catholic Church—and whose reforms, had they been accepted, would have enabled the church to avoid many of the major crises it faces today. Available prior to John XXIII’s likely canonization, Tobin’s The Good Pope is timely and important, offering a fascinating look at the legacy of Vatican Council II, an insightful investigation into the history of the Catholic Church, and a celebration of one of its true heroes.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062089427
List price: $10.99
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I stopped reading this book after 50 pages because I cannot stand the manner in which Tobin writes it. This has nothing to do with his facts or content but rather the book's tone. I could not bear anymore. I knew this going in because I've read another of his books but thought maybe it was just that book. It was not.more
With the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II just around the corner, now seems an appropriate time to re-examine the council and the figures who led it. (Indeed, with the Year of Faith, the Holy Father has invited us to do just that.) So it was with great interest that I read The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church -- The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II by Greg Tobin.Unfortunately, anyone looking for a thorough treatment of either Bl. John XXIII or Vatican Council II will be disappointed in The Good Pope. Mr. Tobin has an almost myopic interest in the political, eschewing the theological or spiritual significance of either John XXIII or the council, and his book is the poorer for it.Anyone unfamiliar with the "Good Pope" will find some interesting information and anecdotes. Tobin does a good job of portraying Angelo's humble beginnings and steady rise through the Church's ranks, focusing on his diplomatic appointments in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and France. Yet of all these instances in the pope's life it was the account of John XXIII's passing that I found especially moving. Surrounded by family and staff, the pope endured great pain in his final days, the result of the stomach cancer which took his life. Speaking to those present before receiving the Last Rites he was heard to say"The secret of my ministry is that crucifix you see opposite my bed. It's there so that I can see it in my first waking moments and before going to sleep. It's there, also, so that I can talk to it during the long evening hours. Look at it, see it as I see it. Those open arms have been the program of my pontificate: they say that Christ died for all, for all. No one is excluded from his love, from his forgiveness..."Unfortunately this probing of John's spirituality comes only at the end of his life. While providing a good overview of some of the pope's encyclicals, Mr. Tobin picks and chooses only those with a focus on political or social issues. I would have enjoyed seeing a treatment of Paenitentiam Agere (John XXIII's encyclical on penance) or Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (on St. Jean Vianny and the priesthood). Looking at these lesser-known encyclicals would have helped fill in some of the gaps of John's faith.This focus on the political extends to the chapters on Vatican Council II; Mr. Tobin seems less interested with the results of the council than with the maneuverings of the various personalities and factions at the council. (I don't recall any direct quotes from the council documents, but plenty from diaries and interviews of those in attendance.) This leaves the impression that the council was less about the end results than about the feelings and intrigues of its participants. This does little to help readers understand the council's impact on the life of the Church and subsequent reforms.Another major shortcoming is the lack of direct reference to Mr. Tobin's sources. While a list of sources is provided at the end of the book, no inline citations or footnotes are provided. An especially egregious example is on page 236, in which an unidentified source claims that progressive forces at the council "correctly deduced that John wanted a wholesale reform." This unattributed assertion is not backed with any evidence and serves only to bolster Mr. Tobin's own conclusions.The Good Pope is, ultimately, less than the sum of its parts, failing as both biography and history. While it contains some interesting tidbits, in the end I can't say that I understand either John XXIII or Vatican Council II any better. Given the wide selection of books about the council and the Good Pope, I cannot recommend this title to anyone wanting more than a political view of either.Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.more

Reviews

I stopped reading this book after 50 pages because I cannot stand the manner in which Tobin writes it. This has nothing to do with his facts or content but rather the book's tone. I could not bear anymore. I knew this going in because I've read another of his books but thought maybe it was just that book. It was not.more
With the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II just around the corner, now seems an appropriate time to re-examine the council and the figures who led it. (Indeed, with the Year of Faith, the Holy Father has invited us to do just that.) So it was with great interest that I read The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church -- The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II by Greg Tobin.Unfortunately, anyone looking for a thorough treatment of either Bl. John XXIII or Vatican Council II will be disappointed in The Good Pope. Mr. Tobin has an almost myopic interest in the political, eschewing the theological or spiritual significance of either John XXIII or the council, and his book is the poorer for it.Anyone unfamiliar with the "Good Pope" will find some interesting information and anecdotes. Tobin does a good job of portraying Angelo's humble beginnings and steady rise through the Church's ranks, focusing on his diplomatic appointments in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and France. Yet of all these instances in the pope's life it was the account of John XXIII's passing that I found especially moving. Surrounded by family and staff, the pope endured great pain in his final days, the result of the stomach cancer which took his life. Speaking to those present before receiving the Last Rites he was heard to say"The secret of my ministry is that crucifix you see opposite my bed. It's there so that I can see it in my first waking moments and before going to sleep. It's there, also, so that I can talk to it during the long evening hours. Look at it, see it as I see it. Those open arms have been the program of my pontificate: they say that Christ died for all, for all. No one is excluded from his love, from his forgiveness..."Unfortunately this probing of John's spirituality comes only at the end of his life. While providing a good overview of some of the pope's encyclicals, Mr. Tobin picks and chooses only those with a focus on political or social issues. I would have enjoyed seeing a treatment of Paenitentiam Agere (John XXIII's encyclical on penance) or Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (on St. Jean Vianny and the priesthood). Looking at these lesser-known encyclicals would have helped fill in some of the gaps of John's faith.This focus on the political extends to the chapters on Vatican Council II; Mr. Tobin seems less interested with the results of the council than with the maneuverings of the various personalities and factions at the council. (I don't recall any direct quotes from the council documents, but plenty from diaries and interviews of those in attendance.) This leaves the impression that the council was less about the end results than about the feelings and intrigues of its participants. This does little to help readers understand the council's impact on the life of the Church and subsequent reforms.Another major shortcoming is the lack of direct reference to Mr. Tobin's sources. While a list of sources is provided at the end of the book, no inline citations or footnotes are provided. An especially egregious example is on page 236, in which an unidentified source claims that progressive forces at the council "correctly deduced that John wanted a wholesale reform." This unattributed assertion is not backed with any evidence and serves only to bolster Mr. Tobin's own conclusions.The Good Pope is, ultimately, less than the sum of its parts, failing as both biography and history. While it contains some interesting tidbits, in the end I can't say that I understand either John XXIII or Vatican Council II any better. Given the wide selection of books about the council and the Good Pope, I cannot recommend this title to anyone wanting more than a political view of either.Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.more
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