THE RISE OF BENEDICT XVI, by John L. Allen, Jr. Doubleday. 249 pp.
WE HAVE A POPE! BENEDICT XVI, by Matthew E. Bunson. Our Sunday
Visitor Publishing. 238 pp. $14.95.
HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI, Greg Tobin. Sterling Publishing
Co. 170 pp. $14.95.
MILESTONES: Memoirs 1927-1977, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Ignatius
Press. 156 pp. $12.95.
LET GOD'S LIGHT SHINE FORTH: The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, Edited by Robert Moynihan. Doubleday.
215 pp. $17.95.
PILGRIM FELLOWSHIP OF FAITH, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Ignatius Press. 381 pp. $17.95.
Reviewed by JOHN F. FINK, author, columnist
and editor emeritus of The Criterion,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
PUBLISHERS HAVE RELEASED, or reissued,
a superabundance of books by
and about Pope Benedict XVI. These six
books are only a few of them.
John Allen is recognized as the finest
Rome correspondent today. His The
Rise of Benedict XVI is the best of the
books about how and why Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope
Benedict XVI and how he will lead the
Allen was guided primarily by conversations
with eight cardinals representing
five nationalities from three
continents, none of whom, however,
violated his oath of secrecy about what
happened during the conclave.
He begins with the last days of Pope
John Paul II and his funeral. He says
that the cardinals were stunned by the
gigantic crowds that lined up for hours
to see the body. They became convinced
that they had to elect the most
qualified and best-prepared man to
continue John Pauls work.
As dean of the College of Cardinals,
Ratzinger presided at the funeral and
gave the homily, chaired
the cardinals meetings during
the week before the
conclave, and gave another
homily at the Mass just
prior to the conclave. Although
Allen is convinced
that Ratzinger thought of
that final homily as his
valedictory, it turned out to
be a campaign speech.
Allen says that, during
their meetings, the cardinals
were impressed with
the way Ratzinger listened. He made
sure that every cardinal spoke, calling
each of them by name and in that cardinals
language. They knew from past
experiences that Ratzinger is a good
No other cardinal had the support
that Ratzinger had during the conclave,
Allen says. That support grew with each
ballot until he was elected on the
fourth ballot, probably with about 100
of the 115 votes.
As good as Allens book is about what
happened before and during the conclave,
perhaps his best chapter is Battling
a Dictatorship of Relativism. It
tells how Benedict might approach
what he describes as the gravest problem
of our time.
In the chapter Changing the Culture
of the Church, Allen says that
Benedict will probably be a better
administrator than John Paul was. He
will probably reform the Curia,
appointing fewer bureaucrats and more
experts, and perhaps eliminating some
departments. He will also pay more
attention to the appointment of bishops,
getting the best and the brightest
theologians instead of Church bureaucrats.
In We Have a Pope!, Matthew Bunson
chronicles the death of John Paul II,
describes events between the reigns of
the two popes, then details the issues
the cardinals discussed before the conclave,
reports on the election
of Benedict XVI, gives
a biography of the new
pope and speculates on
what may happen next.
The chapter on the issues
facing the new pope is particularly
in detail seven key concerns:
the decline of faith,
particularly in Europe; challenges
facing the Church
in the Third World; interreligious
dialogue and ecumenism;
Church governance and
controversial topics; liturgical renewal;
the ecclesial movements; and the challenge
Bunsons book includes a 16-page
color photo insert, one appendix with
a list of the popes and another listing
the books by Pope Benedict available in
In Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
Greg Tobin begins with a superficial
history of the papacy, followed by a
short summary of the conclave and
then the new popes biography.
In his final chapter, his best, he predicts
what Pope Benedict will do regarding
some of the issues in the Church
and society: morality, secularization,
ecumenism, war and terrorism, relations
with the Church in the United
States, priestly celibacy, the role of
women and collegiality.
Tobin is not as thorough as Allen or
Bunson, but does include an appendix
with the chronology of the popes.
All of these books about Pope
Benedict include his biography, but
none is as good as Milestones, the popes
own memoirs from his birth in 1927 to his appointment as archbishop of
Munich-Freising in 1977.
The future pope details his childhood
in Bavaria, his schooling, his
forced military service, his desertion
from the military and his imprisonment
by the American forces. He tells
about his seminary days, his ordination,
his year spent as a parish priest,
his years as a theologian in various German
universities, his contributions to
the Second Vatican Council and his
post-Council disagreements with other
His story after being named an archbishop
is picked up in the books by
Allen, Bunson and Tobin.
Let Gods Light Shine Forth contains
some of Pope Benedicts spiritual writings.
It was edited by Robert Moynihan,
founder and editor of Inside the Vatican,
who interviewed Ratzinger more than
20 times. Moynihan wrote a 75-page
introduction and then introductory
pieces before each chapter.
The spiritual writings are all short,
usually only one or two paragraphs.
Moynihan then ends with the popes
first words, first message and first
homily as pope. The writings cover
such diverse topics as God, Jesus, the
sacraments, social justice, modernity,
ecumenism, prayer and death. They
are excerpted from some of Cardinal
Ratzingers 50-plus books, homilies,
interviews and radio talks.
Moynihans introduction includes a
brief biography and some of Ratzingers
controversies while prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith,
such as his disagreements with Latin
American liberation theologians, his
disciplining of Archbishop Raymond
Hunthausen of Seattle and his failure to
heal the Lefebvrist schism.
Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith is a compilation
of some of Ratzingers works by
the Association of the Former Students
of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. (Imagine
having your own association!) The listing
of Ratzingers works requires 80
Originally published in 2002, this is
perhaps the best book for those interested
in Pope Benedicts theological
writings culled from his books, lectures,
interviews and letters.
You can order THE RISE OF BENEDICT XVI; WE HAVE A POPE! BENEDICT XVI; HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI; MILESTONES: Memoirs 1927-1977; LET GOD'S LIGHT SHINE FORTH: The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI and PILGRIM FELLOWSHIP OF FAITH from St.
NOEL, by Tony Johnston. Art by
Cheng-Khee Chee. Lerner Publishing
Group. 28 pp. $15.95.
Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an
assistant editor of this publication, and
her seven-year-old daughter, Madison.
WE LIVE in a small town where the
local church bells
play various songs to
mark the passing of
each hour. So this
story about how people
react to the local
church bells ringing
struck a chord with
my daughter and me.
The books lyrical
poem tells the tale of
a bell ringing in an
and the many ways
that the townspeople react. The images
created by the poem are breathtaking.
The accompanying watercolor illustrations
on every page make them even
more so. Maddie said she could picture
the snow falling after reading passages
such as the following: The brass
song blasts the frozen sky, shakes the
gathered snowflakes down, perfect
wheels of frozen lace. In a hymn of
silence every place they fall.
The books illustrations are provided
by Cheng-Khee Chee,
whose work has been
widely exhibited. I was
worried that Maddie
wouldnt like the pictures
since they were
more abstract than most
childrens books, but she
thought they were beautiful
because they left
just enough up to her
imagination to fill in
what wasnt clear in the
Overall, both of us agreed that the
catchy poem and beautiful illustrations
made this book one worth checking out.
You can order NOEL from St.
WHERE IS GOD? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope, by Jon
Sobrino. Orbis Books. 156 pp. $22.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a writer
and teacher at St. Xavier High School in
Cincinnati, Ohio. He recently coedited
(with William Madges) Vatican II: Forty
Personal Stories, available through
BORN WHITE, Catholic, American and
a man, Ive been able to insulate myself
from much of the suffering and injustice
that takes place in the world. Yet its
this very reality that Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit
theologian from El Salvador, wants the
reader to encounter and identify with in
his book, Where Is God?
Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity,
Originally, the context for
his reflections came from a
series of major earthquakes
in El Salvador in 2001. This
was soon expanded after the
World Trade Center bombings
on September 11, 2001,
the subsequent U.S. response
in Afghanistan and, later still,
the war in Iraq.
The goal of the book,
Sobrino writes, is to contribute...to
slowing down the dehumanization that
is overtaking our world, and encourage
a humanizing hope and praxis. The
primary question for the book is not
Who is God? but rather Who are
we human beings?
Sobrino begins with the unsettling
claim that America is an empire which
exerts its will politically, culturally, economically
and militarily throughout
the world, causing much suffering.
Furthermore, it does this by fundamentally
imposing the primacy of the
individual and of success as superior
ways of being human, and the selfish
and irresponsible enjoyment of life as
an indisputable value. This Pax Americana,
Sobrino reminds us, should in no
way be confused with Pax Christi, however.
Remembering the year 2001, most
Americans will focus on 9/11. Sobrino
calls our attention to the human suffering
that went on in the Congo,
Mozambique and Central America. He
asks us to go beyond 9/11 and other
American conflicts and see the barbarity
of terrorism and human suffering
in the context of the greater
barbarity and suffering that permeate
Sobrino argues that in the face of
suffering the greatest danger is turning
away from it. Whether its an earthquake,
terrorist attack or war, one of the
first temptations in the face of tragedy
is to ignore it.
The better response is to allow ourselves
to open up, to be affected by it.
Tragically, those who most bear the
burdens of natural disasters, terror and
war are the poor. Sobrino describes
them as a crucified people.
In them, though, one
notices a primordial saintliness.
In the midst of
great pain and privation,
one witnesses acts of
defending and struggling
for life. Even in very trying
times, goodness emerges.
In the end, suffering for
Sobrino is not about where
God is, but how God is
present. The answer of
Christian faith, Sobrino
says. is that, in tragedies, God is on the
cross, giving hope....The countless victims
in this world understand that very
well. Against appearances, they see that
lifetheir lifeis possible. Neither
earthquakes nor barbarity can take
away their love of life and their hope
that life is possible.
With its unsettling demand that we
need to enlarge our world, Where Is
God? is a valuable and necessary book
(not for beginners, though). It makes
clear that, in the face of suffering and
poverty, the poor have priority. Its call
to solidarity with the poor places the
possibility for personal and institutional
conversion before us.
You can order WHERE IS GOD? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope from St. Francis Bookshop.
THE C.S. LEWIS CHRONICLES, by
Colin Duriez. BlueBridge Publications.
298 pp. $14.95.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA AND PHILOSOPHY, edited by Gregory
Bassham and Jerry L. Walls. Open
Court Publishing Company. 291 pp.
C.S. LEWIS & NARNIA FOR DUMMIES , by Richard Wagner. Wiley Publishing,
Inc. 364 pp. $19.99.
POCKET COMPANION TO NARNIA: A Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis, by Paul F. Ford. HarperSan-Francisco. 368 pp. $9.95.
Reviewed by CHRISTOPHER HEFFRON,
an assistant editor of this publication. He
first opened the wardrobe to Narnia when
he was nine years old.
ALTHOUGH THEY WERE close friends
and literary peers, a sort of professional
chasm developed between the Catholic
J.R.R. Tolkien and the Anglican C.S.
Lewis. Perhaps it was because Tolkiens
masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, went
from being a work of fiction to a work
of art. In scale, C.S. Lewiss The Chronicles
of Narnia couldnt quite match it.
But that doesnt mean Lewiss works
havent been studied and beloved for
the last 55 years.
With the hoopla surrounding The
Lord of the Rings all but quieted since the
release of the third and final film and
with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion,
the Witch and the Wardrobe hitting theaters
this month, its Lewiss turn to
take center stage (see C.S. Lewis and Narnia: Faith Beyond the Wardrobe).
Four very different books on the subject
of Narnia and its creator shine a light on
his life, beliefs and literary inventions.
The C.S. Lewis Chronicles, by Colin
Duriez, is more than a biography. Its a
meticulously researched examinationnot only of the authors life but also of
the times that shaped and motivated
Duriez presents an exhaustive report
on Lewiss birth in Ireland, his family,
his associates and his evolution as a
writer and modern thinker. He probes
the great authors life, listing events
both significant and innocuous. In the
end, its as if we are peeking into Lewiss
day-calendar: a richly detailed expedition
through his multilayered life.
Some savored bits are Narnias geographical
similarities to Ireland, a list of Lewiss radio broadcasts and a section
devoted to his wit and wisdom. The
C.S. Lewis Chronicles belongs in the back
pocket of any enthusiast.
If The C.S. Lewis Chronicles is a feast for
the left-brained reader, then The Chronicles
of Narnia and Philosophy should
thrill those who crave something
less concrete. The
book is edited by Gregory
Bassham and Jerry L. Walls,
and written by a host of different
address themes, virtues,
characters and events in
Narnia and find correlations
to our own world.
For example, in Wardrobe,
the Lucy character must
convince her three siblingsPeter, Susan and
Edmundof Narnias existence after she
discovers it through a wardrobe. None of
them believes her. Surely a world with
chatty animals, an evil witch and a
Christlike lion named Aslan is a product
of Lucys overreaching imagination.
The author for this particular section,
Thomas D. Senor, examines Lucys
predicament from several angles, tackling
themes of trust and great leaps of
faith. Should Peter, Susan and Edmund
believe her? What are the consequences?
How would we react to such
a whimsical tale?
Lewiss magical world and the joys
and ordeals that his characters endure
can be applied to our own struggles in
these modern times. Heroism, altruism,
work, vocation, goodness and
immoralism are deconstructed with
C.S. Lewis & Narnia for Dummiescrass title asideis a charming reference
manual for those who might
not know the landscape of Lewiss
worldthe real one or the imaginary
Author Richard Wagner doesnt pander
to unacquainted readers, instead
guiding them through the Christian
symbolism and religious undercurrents
of Lewiss stories. There are obvious
comparisons that Wagner illustrates:
Aslan is the Christ figure; Edmund is
Judas. But Wagner finds other noteworthy
The self-absorbed Eustace at the start
of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader probably
reminds you a bit of yourself. Alternatively,
the simple, steadfast faith of
Trufflehunter in Prince Caspian is a
reminder of the kind of child-like faith
that Jesus Christ calls his followers to do
in Matthew 19:14.
And, finally, Paul L. Fords
Pocket Companion to Narnia:
A Guide to the Magical World
of C.S. Lewis is a remarkable
reference book that deconstructs
and defines characters,
their actions, the places
they go and their inner struggles.
Fords handy little manual,
with charming illustrations
throughout, deserves a place
alongside Lewiss Chronicles.
Faith and magic are alive in what C.S.
Lewis left behind. These four booksweighty as they sometimes areprove
that his literary contributions to the heart,
mind and soul have long outlived him.
You can order THE C.S. LEWIS CHRONICLES, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA AND PHILOSOPHY, C.S. LEWIS & NARNIA FOR DUMMIES and POCKET COMPANION TO NARNIA: A Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis from St.
CATHOLIC Q & A: Answers to the Most Common Questions About Catholicism, by John J. Dietzen. Crossroad
Publishing Company. 532 pp. $17.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M.,
editor of this publication. Since January
2000, he has written its Ask a Franciscan column.
MORE THAN 30 years ago, Father John
Dietzen, ordained in 1954 for the Diocese
of Peoria, Illinois, began a column
in his diocesan newspaper, responding
to questions from readers. The column
was syndicated by Catholic News Service
Since July 1981 these Q&As have
been grouped thematically, revised and
published as books. The present volume
is the 15th edition. In 1992, the Catholic
Press Association gave The New Question
Box: Catholic Life for the Nineties its
first-place award in the category popular
presentation of the Catholic faith.
Father Dietzen has served as diocesan
official, editor, teacher, lecturer, retreat
master, participant in ecumenical dialogues
and pastor. He retired in 1998,
but continues to write his always
In separate chapters Father Dietzen
answers questions about the Bible (34
entries), Church (32), the Mass (31),
Holy Communion (23), Baptism and
Confirmation (18), Marriage and Family
Living (34), Divorce, Annulment,
Remarriage (16), Right and Wrong (32),
Penance and Anointing of the Sick (25),
Ecumenism (25), Prayer and Devotions
(22), Saints (21), Death and Burial (17)
and Etcetera (41).
The Table of Contents notes the
entries in each chapter, and the 10-page Index provides another means to
locate particular topics.
Though his correspondents tend to
ask different questions now (less on
marriage and more on Scripture), Father
Dietzen writes: Teachings tend to be
lifeless and ineffective until one can
understand and relate to them personally,
and envision how these realities
will positively affect friendship with
Jesus Christ, which so many Catholics
and other Christians increasingly
desire. They know that no friendship,
with God or anyone else, grows without
patience, sincere pursuit of greater
understanding and knowledge, prayer,
genuine care for the other, and continual
The purpose of his column and this
book, he says, is to assist and support
readers in this pursuit, and to recognize
how Catholic life, in all its living expressions
of worship, faith and service,
can enhance that kind of intimacy with
Several years ago I sat next to Father
Dietzen at lunch during a Catholic Press
Association convention. I found him
to be knowledgeable, gracious and very
inquisitive. Readers of this volume
should have a similar experience.