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The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church--The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II [Kindle Edition]

Greg Tobin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“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.

Product Description

About the Author

Greg Tobin is publishing director of A.A. World Services. He is the author of multiple titles including Saints and Sinners and Holy Father (a biography of Pope Benedict XVI) and was featured widely in national and international media. He lives in West Orange, New Jersey, with his wife and sons.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1572 KB
  • Print Length: 291 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (25 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HBH5JY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #299,238 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good addition to the library of those of faith 13 Mar. 2013
Countless refreshing stories of this good man's life intertwined from beginning to end makes this a fun and entertaining read.

Although it is there, not enough is made of the central scope of his ministry: to transform the Church from what it had become--a symbol of immense wealth, ritual and preferences--back to the Church for `all' Christ had intended; particularly a Church for the poor

Too, this book gives only the `faith' side of the man. It does not give the `real' side of the man. For example, anyone who has studied his life knows Angelo Roncalli did not approve of visions or miracles. He prided himself on having, besides large hands, equally large feet, planted firmly on the ground. `Visions,' Roncalli warned, `are harmful to true religion and are particularly dangerous when used as a means of promoting political ends.' He canonized only those who had done great work for the poor; ignoring those of so-called purity and imagination. I did not find any of this in this book.

Also, there are instances where the author muddies the integrity of his work unnecessarily. For example, he cites the election of Pius X: "In fact, Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro led in the early voting in the conclave, but when the smoke poured out the new pope was Giuseppe Sarto." This kind of commentary damages the credibility of the rest of what this author has to say. The least attentive of papal-election-observers knows the voting progression is restricted to the conclave and there has been no instance in which a cardinal has ever released this information to the press; one is reporting mere `here-say' as `fact.'

Nevertheless it is with these few observations that I recommend this book. Overall it is as good a record of this man's life as exists. A good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 3 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Joseph Ferguson found this book very intriguing and couldn't put the book down until l could get the end.I would highly recommend this book to any Roman Catholic friends.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately I did find one section that was out of tune with the hitting a speed bump on a highway. 28 Sept. 2012
By Book Him Danno - Published on
As a non-Catholic I came to this book with no knowledge of Pope John XXIII or the tenets of the faith, but I enjoy stories of great people and how they got that way. Tobin's biography did not disappoint as he took us through the life of Pope John; from his peasant childhood in the Italian mountains to the beginnings of his greatest achievement, Vatican II.

From the very beginning his parents were committed to the faith as they waited all day at the church for the priest to return so Angelo (Pope John) could be baptized. "There was no question of returning later" as hard life in the country had taught them tomorrow may never come, at least for some. It is a great message for all those who procrastinate the truly important, like living a more righteous life.

The general theme of the man (and the book) was one of ecumenicism, that respect for others and worrying about the weightier matters in life would do more to further the work of God, or at a minimum, peace in this world. Too often in life, especially in politics, religion, sports, etc., people become severely partisan. So much so their entire focus becomes how the other side is wrong. They sacrifice understanding why they believe what they do in order to understand all the ways others are not right. They build walls to separate themselves from others and eventually lose the ability to work with those different from themselves.

While stationed in Turkey Atatürk banned all religious displays including clothing. Angelo Roncalli said "What does it matter whether we wear the soutane or trousers as long as we proclaim the word of God." It demonstrates how people get fixated on some outward appearance rather than what is on the inside. Several parables come to mind that teach this same principle, from the mote in the eye to the Good Samaritan. Roncalli was a man who believed the bible when it said we were to love all men.

He also demonstrated good humor about his situation from describing his father, "There are three ways of ruining oneself - women, gambling, and farming. My father chose the most boring." His description of his circumstances to a friend "Without having taken a vow of poverty I am practicing it." When asked about how many people worked in the Vatican "About half of them." It all goes to show a man who did not take himself too seriously while at the same time holding the office which he held with the greatest respect. This ability to get down literally in the trenches (served as a priest in WWI) with those he was called to minister served him well as his responsibilities increased.

The message of the bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is love for all men, respect of others and their sincere desires to be good people. Through the daily actions of his life he tried to live this principle to its fullest, and worked to change those who would co-opt the scriptures to abuse their fellow men. When criticized for working with the Russians to secure the release of a imprisoned Bishop, or even the peaceful end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said "We must not condemn them (Russians) because we don't like their political system." It is a sad world when a lot of us condemn others for much less.

A Side Note: I do find it interesting how the JFK church/state separation is much touted as a criticism of Mitt Romney and his Mormonism, but JFK, the Russians, and Pope John XXIII were very involved together to end the Cuban Missile Crisis. The aforementioned "complete" separation obviously had some cracks no one seems to interested in discussing nowadays. Plus, don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing the involvement at all, I just find it fascinating.

I found almost the entire book delightful and full of interesting quotes and stories that served to uplift my own worldview. All of us could be a little nicer in life and while I am sure Pope John XXIII would be the first to agree he was far from perfect, at times in his life he did a pretty good job of doing his best.

Unfortunately I did find one section of the book that was out of tune with the rest, that was like hitting a jarring speed bump on the highway when all else had been fine. At one point the author's own biases bled through and took me out of the narrative completely. I won't get into the several issues the author brought up because at the end of the day they are things of personal opinion and have nothing to do with Pope John XXIII. But when you are purporting to write a biography and you begin a sentence with "It might be mere semantics and revisionism to ask how John himself might comment on the contemporary issue of ..." and then go ahead and spout your personal opinions and state that the Pope would have clearly agreed with me - you have gone wrong.

This process of co-opting the Pope to make divisive statements of contemporary issues was just plain disgraceful. It ruined the flow of the book and it honestly took at least fifty more pages to get back into the life story again. Furthermore it made me suspicious of the rest of the text that the author might be forcing his opinion in and I just wasn't noticing. At the end those ten or so pages really brought down an otherwise excellent life story of a great man who, as it seemed to me, deserved better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Great Pope Whose Impact is Still Felt Today 9 Mar. 2013
By Suzanne Dobbins - Published on
“They called him Il Buono Papa, ‘the Good Pope.’ During Pope John XXIII’s lifetime – and especially in the immediate aftermath of his death from stomach cancer on June 3, 1963 – Italian Catholics and Socialists alike; journalists and diplomats; Roman Catholics, Protestants, non-Christians, and nonbelievers across the globe; men and women of every race, class, and nation called him ‘good’ and mourned his passing.”

I was born after the death of Pope John XXIII. My generation vividly recalls the impact our own saintly pope, John Paul II, had in reaching out to non-Catholics and his stance against Communism. But this era of ecumenism is actually a continuation of the Papacy of John XXIII.

In The Good Pope, author Greg Tobin examines the life of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, from his early years as a peasant farm boy, to his priesthood, where he was sent to study Canon Law, and eventually sent abroad to “backwater” countries where Catholicism was by far the minority. As the story develops, we see this young priest shine in the area of diplomacy – reaching out to all of God’s children, not just the Catholics. His rise to the Papacy seems quite improbable, but yet, he was, in the end, the perfect man for the job. In a time when the world experienced a split between capitalism and communism, and at the same time, our world was becoming smaller with the advent of new technologies, change was in the air. As Pope, John XXIII, called for a new ecumenical council – Vatican II. As Tobin asserts:

“This pope still matters because he stood with his feet planted firmly in the swiftly flowing river of history and, like the legendary Saint Christopher, helped his people move safely from one bank to the other without being swept away by raging currents beneath. Thus he ‘saved’ the Church he loved so much, preserving its core doctrines intact, through force of will and personal diplomacy as manifested in a humble, indeed earthly spirituality that contradicted most expectations by his peers.”

As the 50th anniversary of Vatican II approaches, now is an excellent time to study the life of Pope John XXIII. Tobin’s book is a good first look at this man, who was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2000. I appreciated Roncalli’s astuteness in his stance against Italian fascism – the Mussolini government tried to court it’s Catholic population by promoting Catholicism in the schools and returning crucifixes to public buildings. But Roncalli bravely spoke out and said “His (Mussolini’s) goals may perhaps be good and correct, but the means he takes to realize them are wicked.” In hindsight, of course, we know he was correct. But at the time, there were many Catholics who felt the end justified the means.

I enjoyed reading about Good Pope John’s reaching out to Nikita Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At a time when the western world frowned upon diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, the Pope understood that peace would not be achieved by closed doors. By allowing messages back and forth between the Kremlin, John XXIII achieved the release of Orthodox Archbishop Slipyi, held prisoner in the Gulag for seventeen years. In fact, this Pope consecrated his life for the conversion of Russia to the Catholic Church.

In addition to his chapters on Vatican II, Tobin devotes time to John’s eighth and final encyclical, Pacem in terris (Peace on Earth), which was written while the Pope was suffering with stomach cancer, just months prior to his death in 1963. He writes that it was well received by everyone – capitalists, socialists, communists, and non-Christians, and was one more important contribution to the world from his Papacy. For a man with less than five years in the seat of St. Peter, Pope John XXIII made an impact on the world that is still felt today.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man of His Time, and Ours 25 Sept. 2012
By Paul Kocak - Published on
"The Good Pope" by Greg Tobin is a sober reminder of how things have changed since the days of Pope John XXIII and Vatican Council II. (I am not without prejudice: those days were formative in my own life, and Pope John's inspiration at that time is not forgotten.) Tobin deftly evokes an era as he sketches a loving portrait of this very good man. "The Good Pope" is important reading, underscoring the hunger of these times for a saintly person who can reach across religious or secular or cultural boundaries, as Pope John did. Tobin also illuminates the drama of the Council that John set forth and explores its implications for the Catholic Church and beyond. Most of all, Tobin's story-telling gifts as a novelist inform this very readable narrative.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Pope. Good Book. 30 Jun. 2013
By Andrew Kuligowski - Published on
Pope John XXIII was one of the most beloved religious representatives in the 20th century. Why? What made him such a popular individual with the lay people of the Catholic Church? What background shaped this "caretaker" Pope, originally expected to do little while holding the seat warm until the next election?

"The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vatican II" by Greg Tobin is a good look at the life of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, a son of peasant farmers who entered the priesthood, served in various capacities, and rose to the highest position in the Roman Catholic Church. This last sentence actually summarizes the book quite distinctly and delineates the major aspects of his life and career - the things that molded him into the man who would lead the Catholic Church into the 20th century (more than halfway THROUGH that century ...)

The book is largely written from a secular standpoint for the layman's benefit; it reads much more like a traditional biography than a religious treatise. Of course, it would be impossible to review the life and times of such a man without delving into Christian and Catholic beliefs, but these are done as though from an outsider looking in. Only in the last chapter does the author begin to assume that the reader is "one of the faithful", freely utilizing phrases like "inspired by the Holy Spirit". I would have expected the book to conclude in the same manner with which the first 95% was written - or else expected that first 95% to match the conclusion. This inconsistency does not significantly draw away from the writer's accomplishments.

"The Good Pope" is a great book for Roman Catholics of all ages, whether you were old enough to remember John XXIII or not - and it's a very good book for those of other faiths, as well.

DISCLOSURE: I won this book in a blogger's contest; no conditions, including even a commitment to write a review, were requested or made in return.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely fantastic book 8 Aug. 2013
By Helen Sue Munro - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was extremely hard to put down once started. The story of a totally decent man who, unfortunately didn't have time to complete what he had begun.
Another book worth reading about another pope who would have done so much for the Church is "In God's Name" - I can't remember the author, but is the story of John Paul 1, who died mysteriously after only 33 days in office.
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