THE GREAT REFORMER by Austen Ivereigh


Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope
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An admiring defense of the new pope, who is not afraid to shake things up.

A British journalist and co-founder of the worldwide media project Catholic Voices, Ivereigh brushes aside any “false idea” that the former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (b. 1936) ever held conservative views and takes great pains to show he has been a lifelong reformer. When he was ordained a priest in 1969 at the age of 32, Bergoglio was deeply influenced by the reforms instigated by the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, as a young priest, Bergoglio fused important relationships with formative political currents of the day, such as Marxism and Peronism—e.g., he gave “spiritual support” at Salvador University in Buenos Aires to leaders of the Guardia de Hierro (“Iron Guard”), which advocated for the original worker-based Peronist platform. Ivereigh insists that Bergoglio’s sympathy for the “popular values of the pueblo fiel did not make him a party activist.” During the so-called Dirty War in Argentina of the late 1970s, many close to the priest were “disappeared,” and the author asserts that Bergoglio actively worked to protect the victims and fellow Jesuits, contrary to the barbs launched by Horacio Verbitsky in his book El Silencio. Yet Ivereigh also notes Bergoglio’s ability to “play his cards very close to his chest.” Always eager to put forth a pastoral rather than ideological approach, Bergoglio is a deeply intuitive and well-read teacher, constantly warning against “worldliness” and increasingly attuned to charismatic spirituality. The author maintains that Bergoglio is a master of forging consensus—e.g., in the wrangling over the Argentinian same-sex legislation of 2010; he officially denounced it but left open a possibility of “revising and extending the concept of civil unions.” Elected to the papacy in February 2013, Francis promises to continue forging his particular brand of humility and resoluteness.

A quick, efficient job of fairly sketching this extraordinary life.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1627791571
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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