Heirs of the Fisherman  -     By: John-Peter Pham
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Heirs of the Fisherman

Oxford University Press / 2006 / Paperback

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Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2006
Dimensions: 6.13 X 9.25 (inches)
ISBN: 0195305612
ISBN-13: 9780195305616

Publisher's Description

The death of Pope John Paul II and consequent election of Pope Benedict XVI has shed light on a political process that the world has not been privy to for almost twenty-six years. People from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Square, wondering who the next Vatican leader would be and how the election process really worked, while everyone from international news correspondents to local priests added their own opinions to the debate.

In Heirs of the Fisherman, former Vatican insider John-Peter Pham presents a candid portrait of the modern Vatican, the only account to reveal the striking changes to papal succession procedures made by John Paul II. Blending political and ecclesiastical history, Pham goes beyond a mere description of the complex rituals to offer rare insight into the dramatic shifts inside the College of Cardinals, whose 100 members now hail from 50 nations around the globe. He takes us into the secret conclave, where the electors were kept under lock and key, until they had selected a new pope. He also includes a chapter devoted to the intrigues of the 20th century where the first conclave had an emperor's veto and the last was won by the first non-Italian in four centuries becauase the Italians were bitterly divided.

With a new Preface, Afterword, and appendices that include an English translation of the last will and testament of Pope John Paul II, Heirs of the Fisherman is an illuminating history and must-have guide to this vitally important world event. It will continue to be an indispensable reference to observers of future Catholic Church politics.

Author Bio


John-Peter Pham is a frequent writer and commentator on religious and public affairs. An alumnus of the post-graduate Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he served as a Vatican diplomat as well as an aide to both the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican and the President of the Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace. Dr. Pham is presently the Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University.

Editorial Reviews


"While it looks to the future, Heirs of the Fisherman offers a grand historical sweep of significant elections past. Pham explains how conclaves developed and the forces that shaped their present, and still evolving, form. He writes with clarity and verve.... Makes history come alive in a way that illumines the present.... For those interested in understanding the conclave, Pham's book will be invaluable."--Ann Rodgers, America


"A timely reference for those handicapping the race for the next pope--and contemplating the future of Catholicism.... Pham's study may well be the last word--for now--on the arcane and controversial ways popes have been selected in the past.... Of broader interest, however, is his reckoning of the challenges the next pope will face, especially since talk of such conditional matters is very nearly taboo in Vatican circles.... Students of the papacy will find this an invaluable reference."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


"Those who are interested in understanding an event that is usually a milestone in religious and even in secular history will find no better resource in the English language." --Ladislas Orsy, Professor of Canon Law at Georgetown University Law Center


"Pham's exhaustive approach and informed view will appeal to anyone interested in more than a cursory treatment of this fascinating subject.... When the next conclave meets to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, this book could easily be required reading for papal observers and journalists reporting on the election."--Publishers Weekly


"A lucid and useful book.... Pham's long and detailed account of the historical intricacies of one pope succeeding another, going back two millennia, makes clear what a profoundly human institution the papacy is."--James Carroll, Washington Post Book World


"Both interesting and pleasurable to read."--thepopeblog.com


"A former Vatican diplomat and frequent writer on religious and public affairs, Pham here offers a veritable reference encyclopedia in disguise.... In a readable and objective fashion, Pham...shows how the tremendous struggle among popes, monarchs, and others, especially over investiture, eventually gave way in the 1100s as the electoral mechanism of the conclave developed. Such complex history often necessitates leaping back and forth in time, and Pham makes high drama of particular moments with clarity and frankness. As the likelihood of a new pontiff draws closer, this book is all the more timely."--Library Journal (starred review)


"The Papacy is an extraordinary institution that has outlived nations and empires, and might yet flourish long after our present world order has faded into legend. All the more important, then, that we understand the complexities of papal power and the papal succession. Heirs of the Fisherman is a mine of information on these subjects, offering a lucid and helpful analysis of the process of papal elections, with some important thoughts on how papal power stands in the modern world."--Philip Jenkins, author of The New Anti-Catholicism and The Next Christendom


"This UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS look at the papacy and papal succession reveals the institution itself to be Western history's most successful irony. Dr. Pham writes as a privileged observer of this long-running ballet as the dancers wait in the wings for its next act, anticipating John Paul II's final bow."--Paul E. Dinter, author of The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood


"This very readable book masterfully brings together the history of papal elections, the present procedures, and insightful prognostication of what might happen in the election of a new pope. Pham skillfully uses history, objective analysis, anecdotes, and an insider's knowledge in this lively exposition. The most complete one-volume explanation of papal elections in the past and present." --Charles E. Curran, author of the forthcoming The Moral Theology of Pope John Paul II


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