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on 19 August 2013
Untying the Knots is an exemplary work of biography and journalism. Rather than rush to print with Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election as pope Paul Vallely, the author, spent some considerable time travelling to Rome and Buenos Aires to meet friends and enemies of the new pope.

Despite being a relatively short book it is teeming with detail, including sketches of Argentinian politics, the origins and conduct of the "Dirty War", and the machinations of two papal elections, as well as the origins and career of the new pope, Francis.

The central issues of the book relate to Bergoglio's personal conduct during the Dirty War and what sort of a pope he will be. In relation to the first question Vallely explores in some depth the key question relating to Bergoglio's role in the kidnapping and torture of two Jesuit priests by the military junta when he was Provincial of that order.

The answer to that first question is fundamental in Vallely's assessment of the second. In the end Vallely paints a convincing picture of a man who was politically conservative and personally authoritarian in his youth, making some dreadful mistakes as a result. But while remaining quite conservative Bergoglio appear to be someone who, as a result of deep shame at past misconduct and misjudgement, has grown into a generous and courageous figure.

It will be interesting to see the sort of pope that Bergoglio becomes as Francis but Vallely presents considerable evidence to suggest a hopeful prospect based on his radical conduct in the first months of his pontificate.
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on 2 August 2013
Just finished this book. It is superb. An excellent text, immensely readable, and in fact 'unputdownable'. It's Vallely at his very best. He throws light on the shadow years of the 1970s and asks all the right questions. He recognizes and seeks to explain the man who changed (and allowed himself to change) and who has now become Bishop of Rome - making a clear option, to the astonishment of many, of a church for the poor, in the style of Oscar Romero, Helder Camara and the 'Pact of the Catacombs'.
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on 3 September 2013
When he was in charge of the Jesuits in Argentina during the 1976-1983 military junta, Jorge Mario Bergoglio put the lives of two of his priests in mortal danger by not letting them say mass. This was taken as a signal by the junta that the two could be tortured (which they were) and killed (which they managed to avoid after five horrible months in captivity). It is Paul Vallely's thesis that recognising his terrible errors here helped make a humble, more compassionate man out of Bergoglio. It is a moving tale, and very convincing. Church leaders, including the last two Popes, can be off-putting to ordinary people because they appear as if they were born good. But one of the reasons that Bergoglio is so appealing is that he seems like us. He can do ordinary things like sing some risky Genovese songs which his uncle taught him or follow football or become obsessed temporarily by a woman, as he did many years ago...just like we might have done in his position. Reading this book made me happy, and I learnt a lot from it. Just to pick two ideas. Pope Francis is quoted as saying: "Guilt, without atonement, does not allow us to grow." And, in his last sermon in Buenos Aires before becoming Pope, he said that morality is not "a never falling down" but an "always getting up again". The last chapter of this book was clearly produced in a bit of a rush and, I guess, will be properly sub-edited when it is reprinted. But Paul Vallely has produced a great introduction to a wonderful man - and also given some fascinating insights into the discipline and determination of the mighty Jesuit order. It only takes one Jesuit to change a school or a country or a world, it seems.
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on 8 August 2013
A well written book which reads like a detective story piecing together the jigsaw of Bergoglio's past. Tells the truth about the Pope's murky past but ends with a powerful affirmation of him which suggests he is going to be a great Pope. Unputdownable and uplifting in the end.

A real page turner that keeps you reading right till the end.
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on 6 August 2013
Excellent!!. This is a well researched and well written text. The analysis of Fr Jorge's journey is perceptive and asks the questions we all want answered.The passage being undertaken by the Pontiff is explored,critiqued and described in a manner that reflects the journey itself.
" Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to changes things" Cardinal Cormac O'Connor Murphy page 187
I await Vallely's 2017 edition !!!!!
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on 16 August 2013
This book is very informative and a great read. It is no quickly cobbled together biography garnered from the cuttings library but a carefully researched study of people who know the man, first hand sources in Rome and Argentina. It sets the tumultuos affairs and damascene rebirth of the new Pope in a concise review of the recent history of his country. It is at times enthralling and always interesting. A deep analysis in a readable and gripping style. Even to me as a non-Catholic it unpacks the intricacies of this Church and of a man who could change it all.
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on 30 September 2013
Paul Vallely is always worth reading and this biography of Pope Francis is no exception. It has to be read in full because, by half-way through, Fr. Bergoglio looks like a rabid traditionalist but the transformation into a humble servant of the poor is beautifully sketched and described.
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on 29 September 2013
Having read, and been fascinated by, a couple of extracts printed in The Tablet, I decided to purchase the book. I've already passed it on to four different friends and we have all been absorbed in our reading and in awe at the transformation/conversion of this man who has become our Pope. From a rather shocking beginning, what a lesson he has become for us all, and what hope it gives to each of us that a man so dyed-in-the-wool establishment-authoritarian has become a man for our time: open-hearted, generous, forgiving and "simple" (in the very best sense of the word)! A great read and very thought-provoking.
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on 7 June 2014
I enjoyed this book enormously. It was really interesting from beginning to end. Pope Francis is a fascinating character. I loved that the book revealed some history of Argentina during the Dirty War when innocent people were kidnapped by the military death squads and never seen again. This book would make a sensational film.
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on 13 January 2015
I purchased THIS book because the author is reknown for his attention to detail and after I had read about half of it I felt as if he, Paul Vallely was making a concerted attack on Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, and for no obvious reason. Mr Vallely dug deep and spent much time and many pages outlining and going over the years when Pope Frances was Archbishop in Buenos Aires and his previous years when Provincial of the Jesuits and of the 'allegations' that he had caused 2 priests to be arrested and tortured during Argentinas darkest days when the Junta was in charge of the country. Vallely also covers the time when Jose Bergoglio as he was then appeared to have become a changed man, what brought about that change and the humility that he showed and shows and how he aligned himself, and ordered his Jesuit Brothers to do the same when dealing with the very poorest of the poor.
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