The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope

by Austen Ivereigh

Paperback, 2015



Call number

Adult > Pope Francis


Picador (2015), Edition: Updated, Expanded, 480 pages


This biography of Pope Francis describes how this revolutionary thinker uses the power of his position to challenge and redirect one of the world's most formidable religions.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jwmccormack
The American media thinks it understands the papacy. John Paul II and Benedict XVI seemed to fit easily into existing media-driven metanarratives centered on American political categories: liberal, conservative, reactionary, Cold Warrior, intellectual, patriarchal, and so on. These categories
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didn't always fit, but neither of the last two popes troubled the media's characterization nearly as often as Francis has in just the first two years of his papacy. Into that mix comes Ivereigh's biography, which should go a long way toward giving pundits and commentators more to work with. Discussing Bergoglio's life in Argentina and his attempts to reform his Jesuit province, the book offers a great deal of detail designed to make sense of Francis' approaches to social, economic, moral, and liturgical issues. That combination has already had the media tripping over itself to explain his "liberal agenda," his comments on marriage and sexuality, his support of environmental conservation, and his embrace of a more populist spirituality that makes room for the reality of the devil (in ways that make a wide swatch of Western liberal and conservative Catholics cringe).

Any book on a pope that can boast blurbs from Cardinal Chaput and George Weigel, David Gibson and John Allen, Jr., clearly has demonstrated the ways in which Francis cuts across entrenched divisions within the Catholic Church (particularly, but not exclusively, the North American church). One might object to the title, throwing out "reformer" and "radical" for readers to map their hopes and fears onto the new pope. But the title seems little more than bait to reel in the audience Ivereigh intends to challenge. Much has been made of the "first pope from Latin America," but indeed the unique history of the church not just in Latin America broadly, but Buenos Aires in particular, has decisively shaped Francis' priorities and leadership. Here's hoping this book can contribute to the reeducation of a popular press that desperately needs to find a new story to tell. It should also satisfy any other readers who seek to understand Francis/Bergoglio a bit better.
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LibraryThing member EllieNYC
[book:The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope|21531406] by [author:Austen Ivereigh|2073503] is a highly readable and informative biography of Jorge Mario Bergoglio-the Jesuit priest who is now Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic church. Bergoglio, an Argentinian priest
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born to Italian immigrants, has impressed the world with his insistence on simplicity, poverty and a focus on a theology "shaped by the periphery, not the center," the church's obligation to a radical commitment to the poor. Ivereigh provides not only insight into the formation of this remarkable Jesuit but also a history of the country he comes from and the order which has shaped his religious life. Great detail is provided about the history of Argentina, the struggles of the Jesuit order, Vatican II, and the political/social climates that shaped the present pope (sometimes the background is a bit overwhelming and makes for slow albeit fascinating reading) and Ivereigh is clearly a fan of Francis and has nothing but praise so that the book becomes something of a hagiography. However, on the whole (and as a Catholic), I found the book inspirational and fascinating. I learned a great deal about the Church, Argentine history, and Jesuit values as well learning about a man who seems to be destined to become a powerful player in world politics. The book might provide more information than a non-Catholic is interested in learning about the present pope but the lucid prose and clear organization makes for easy comprehension.

(Full disclosure: I won this book through LibraryThing. The review reflects my opinions of and responses to the book.)
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LibraryThing member LynnB
I greatly admire Pope Francis (though I am not Catholic) for his priority on the poor, and for putting the mercy of Jesus front and centre of his teachings and actions. This biography gives a comprehensive look at his life, including his time as a priest, then bishop, then cardinal in Argentina.
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The author shows how Francis worked in the political atmosphere of his time...a time of government-caused "disappearances", high inflation, guerrilla war fare and other major upheavals. It shows how he reached out to the poor, and to those of other faiths. It also provides a glimpse into Vatican politics and how popes are chosen. Very interesting, lots of context, and lots of Pope Francis's own words and deeds to give us a better understanding of this man.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This is a 12014 biography of Pope Francis. I was quite surprised to learn that he had quite a stressful time when he was Jesuit provincial in Argentina and that he was estranged from the Jesuit community while he was bishop and archbishop. But the account of his election and his time as Pope is a
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joy to read and makes the entire book worthwhile. The book makes me very hopeful for the future of the Church. Ths only sad part is that Francis is not younger but he certainly has conducted himself as a true shepherd and we can all hope that he will continue in good health.
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Original language


Physical description

480 p.; 6.14 inches


1250074991 / 9781250074997
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