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Publisher's Summary

Elected to the papacy at the age of 76, Pope John XXIII was to have a brief but important reign. Although he had a doctorate in theology, his gifts were pastoral, reaching out to the people of the Church. After his doctorate, he spent nine years working for the socially-minded bishop of Bergamo, acquiring a broad understanding of the problems of the working class. This pastoral sympathy for ordinary people was brought out in his papacy. Vatican II, which he convened, brought forth the idea of a church as a community, in which all God's people are a sign of redemption for the human race. Cahill, in his short biography, gives us a sense of the enduring importance of John XXIII's idea.
©2002 Thomas Cahill (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.

What listeners say about Pope John XXIII

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

John XXIII, The Greatest Pope

Thomas Cahill situates John XXIII’s person and papacy within the history of the Roman Catholic Church as well as developments in the Church after John’s death. Cahill begins with a lengthy description of papal history up until John’s time. He then briefly introduces John’s family life and movement toward the throne in Rome. Cahill then treats in detail—complete with Vatican intrigues!—John’s greatest contribution to the Church, the Second Vatican Council. Finally, Cahill compares John’s papacy with that of his more conservative successors.

Cahill’s “dark history” of the papacy might offend some, but it is largely accurate. Indeed, Cahill offers some papal highlights amid all the gloom, most notably the reign of Gregory the Great. Any objective history of the papacy will turn up just as much dirt, maybe even more—papal executioners, concubines, wars, excesses, and so on.

As a contrast to much of this debauchery or well-intended inaction, Cahill offers the wise and compassionate papacy of John XXIII. His anecdotal history of John’s family life and struggles through the priesthood make for especially enjoyable and spiritual listening. Current world affairs make John’s lifelong commitment to peace resonant and urgent. John’s equanimity and focus on Jesus, while making his way through well-meaning, but closed-minded bureaucrats, also offers a model of sanctity and compassion in the midst of disagreement and misunderstanding.

“Conservative” Catholics will probably dislike this book. “Liberal” members will most likely nod along. And the open-minded will probably learn a few things about a remarkable man and a model of sainthood.

Also Recommended on Audible: Hans Kung, -The Catholic Church-

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

It's not the sentimental

I'm a faithful Catholic (the kind who enjoys daily mass and my breviary), and I enjoyed every minute of this audiobook!

Perhaps the title ought to have reflected that much of the book contained histotrical context of the papacy, but folks! What else can be written about popes at a time when society was such that the papacy was more about polity than faith and morals? I don't think Cahill meant his work as definitive history of the Catholic Church - even Kung's much longer and more serious audiobook on the subject does not pretend to that. (That's also a pretty good listen, but not exactly "entertaining" as is Cahill's)

Cahill tells of the good news from Popes also - what there was - And he tells the whole tale with a dry humour (like the reference to Calvinist Geneva being "not much fun" alluded to above).

Cahill may have been too easy on John XXXIII, though - Surely no human could be that good - why he'd be a...saint?

Humorous, informative, inspiring, well narrated from a a well-written text, this audiobook goes particularly well accompanied by the autobiographies of Simone Veil, Dorothy Day, and Deitrich Bonhoeffer also available on this site.

6 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting take on other popes

It was an educational tour through popes preceding Pope John. I knew little about the earlier popes, but had read a few excellent books on this pope. What I was a bit astonished by was the harsh words for the popes who followed him.

I believe this is biased, though I very much enjoyed the account of Joh’s life and suffering. I have to disagree strongly on the author’s judgment of recent popes, and the anger expressed. Each of these men is holy in his own way. This does not give that impression.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Not what is seems

I originally got this book thinking a would get a nice biography of St. John XXII. However, almost from the very begin Dr. Cahill goes into a diatribe about the Catholic Church from Peter to John XXII. I believe that the title of a book should actually tell you what is on its pages.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Anti-Catholic or Completely Atheistic?

I got this book hoping to take a look at the life of Pope John XXIII, but instead I received a book that either has an anti-Catholic stance or was written from a completely atheistic point of view. Either way, the author here obviously shows the Catholic Church in an absolutely horrible light.

The book begins easily enough with a brief introduction of a few sayings of Pope John XXIII. The author then decides to update the reader on the history of the papal lines to give you some "background" as to the papacy that John XXXIII was entering into. What then proceeds from this is a two and a half hour diatribe on every bad thing every pope did up to the time of Pope John XXIII. The reader is left with a sense that every pope in the Catholic Church was driven by lust, power, or greed. Even the very rare instances where the author attempts to shine a good light on the papal reform, it is downplayed with comments to make the reader feel that his efforts were futile due to the corruption in the entire church.

Additionally, the "colorful" language of the book adds comments to fundamental Catholic doctrine as "off the wall" and "unbiblical". This is especially true when the doctrines of Marry the blessed mother of Jesus are mentioned. I also found it ironic that the book spends about 20 minutes on the protestant reformation and how Protestantism turned some towns into places of "not much fun".

If you are Catholic and are truly interested in church history, I highly suggest you pass this one by.

21 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Beware: Seriously Unbalanced Historical Account

Very disappointed, one of the most misleading descriptions for an Audible audiobook I've had the misfortune to happen upon.

Be aware, the first +3 hours of this audiobook are spent on a thoroughly unbalanced, one-sided account of the history of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing good happened before John XXIII, and nothing good has happened since, until Francis. Cynical, sarcastic, smug, inventive, imaginative, intellectually "cute" in places - but balanced, objective history, even balanced, objective critical historical analysis (which is what the author seems to be grasping at unsuccessfully) it is not. Sets Ecumenism back to pre-John XXIII days. From the "other" side.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Extremely biased and one sided

The basics of the book is is that Christianity as a whole is ridiculous and the church is ran by a bunch of power hungry evil men (with the soul exception of John XXIII). the author greatly exaggerates the conservatism of all of the other popes and greatly exaggerates the liberalism of John XXIII. He takes quotes from other popes wildly out of contacts and tells an extremely biased view of history and fails to realize the complexity is that the popes and the church have faced. The narration was fantastic but if you really want to learn about John the XXIII or the church I recommend you go elsewhere

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A Hate-Filled Rant

I am astonished at the venomous, revisionist, skewed portrayal of the history of the Papacy and the Catholic Church that starts the book. I don't know what's worse, the fact that this material has no place in a John XXII biography or that Cahill has so recognizably trotted out the same old anti-Catholic propaganda and ignored valid historical research on the Church. Cahill writes like a angry child with a marker and bare wall.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful, inspiring!

Would you listen to Pope John XXIII again? Why?

Yes, for the information is provided and for the insight into the man. At this time we need more than ever a picture of a renewed and warm humanity.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No ... I want to savor parts of it. It brought me down memory lane. It reminded me that hope is a choice you have to make; and joy is its promise.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Consider the source

First the good. This book contains a reasonable and sympathetic portrait of John XXIII, his role in initiating the second Vatican council, and the council itself. As far as I know, there is nothing else like it on Audible.

Unfortunately this book's flaws overwhelm its virtues. The first couple of hours on the history of the papacy cast nearly everything about the church and the popes in a harshly negative light. It comes off as awesomely arrogant and judgmental, and unfair even where it is right.

Not being expert on that history, I decided to judge Cahill's judgment based on his treatment of the great John Paul II. In one word, it is SAVAGE. Huh????

Ignore this guy. He is not trustworthy.

6 people found this helpful