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The Good Pope and His Great Council: A Biography of Saint John XXIII and Vactican II

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30 review for The Good Pope and His Great Council: A Biography of Saint John XXIII and Vactican II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Celia

    The legacy of the Good Pope, St John XXIII, lives on in this engaging book written by Greg Tobin. Humble by nature, the Good Pope accomplished so much: convening the Second Vatican Council and penning the astounding encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). In this biography the life of Angelo Roncalli is described from start to finish and somewhat beyond. The Second Vatican Council completed its meetings and decisions after his death. I have always been impressed by Pacem in Terris. I studied The legacy of the Good Pope, St John XXIII, lives on in this engaging book written by Greg Tobin. Humble by nature, the Good Pope accomplished so much: convening the Second Vatican Council and penning the astounding encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). In this biography the life of Angelo Roncalli is described from start to finish and somewhat beyond. The Second Vatican Council completed its meetings and decisions after his death. I have always been impressed by Pacem in Terris. I studied it enough to present its tenets to a Unitarian Church Forum. Non-Catholics were primarily in attendance at this presentation. Even these people were impressed by the Pope's message of nuclear non-proliferation. The Good Pope continued to impress even after his death. John XXIII was the second pope who reigned during my lifetime and I feel blessed to have been able to read about his life and achievements.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    "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 i "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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I saw this at my local library and picked it up because I married into a Catholic family and live in a very Catholic neighborhood. Also, I had heard of Vatican II but didn't know what it was. Overall I'm glad I read this glowing biography of Pope John XXIII and it makes me want to read more about modern Roman Catholicism. At first I was skeptical of the overwhelmingly positive portrayal of Angelo Roncalli (really? No mistakes or missteps at all? People only disliked him because he was so open an I saw this at my local library and picked it up because I married into a Catholic family and live in a very Catholic neighborhood. Also, I had heard of Vatican II but didn't know what it was. Overall I'm glad I read this glowing biography of Pope John XXIII and it makes me want to read more about modern Roman Catholicism. At first I was skeptical of the overwhelmingly positive portrayal of Angelo Roncalli (really? No mistakes or missteps at all? People only disliked him because he was so open and charitable to foreigners and non-Catholics?), but then again the man did become pope. Though it wasn't clear how exactly he became pope. The bare facts of his promotions and the ultimate conclave and election were described, but the underlying causes left unexplained (why him and not someone else? You can't just say he got the most votes). I often felt i was missing the doctrinal implications of certain statements made or the significance of a visit to a certain shrine, and I was inundated by unfamiliar vocabulary: nuncio, encyclical, Curia, prelate, synod, vestments, etc. But once i realized the book was written for Catholics (who else would read a papal biography?) I calmed down and used context cues the best I could. I also enjoyed the parade of fabulous Italian names (one of the pope's valets was named Guido). Pope John XXIII only lived through the first part of the Second Vatican Council, do I didn't quite get the in-depth explanation I was looking for. But I did learn that despite lots of internal political pressures within the Church Pope John XXIII was able to move the Church in a modern direction, engaging with current affairs, dialoguing with world leaders and other faiths, and emphasizing social justice. Sounds like quite a good man, er, pope after all!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Book Him Danno

    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 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tony Gutiérrez

    This well-written biography flows very steadily despite its length. However the author interjects his own opinions about Church teaching that really isn’t relevant or necessary in telling the story of the pope saint.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Told with reverence and well done considering the dearth if source materials.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vat­i­can II, The Mak­ing of a Saint and the Remak­ing of the Church by Greg Tobin is a biog­ra­phy of Angelo Giuseppe Ron­calli, the Pope. John XXIII is cred­ited with help­ing mod­ern­ized the Catholic Church even though he only served as Pope from 1958 to 1963. I wanted to read The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vat­i­can II, The Mak­ing of a Saint and the Remak­ing of the Church by Greg Tobin because I am very unfa­mil­iar with the Catholic dogma and beliefs. Being brough The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vat­i­can II, The Mak­ing of a Saint and the Remak­ing of the Church by Greg Tobin is a biog­ra­phy of Angelo Giuseppe Ron­calli, the Pope. John XXIII is cred­ited with help­ing mod­ern­ized the Catholic Church even though he only served as Pope from 1958 to 1963. I wanted to read The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vat­i­can II, The Mak­ing of a Saint and the Remak­ing of the Church by Greg Tobin because I am very unfa­mil­iar with the Catholic dogma and beliefs. Being brought up Jew­ish I can also not com­pre­hend the ele­vated sta­tus to the Pope in the eyes of mor­tal men as well as the whole idea of ele­vat­ing a man into the sta­tus of “saint”. I found it fas­ci­nat­ing to read about the dif­fer­ent fac­tion within the Catholic church which I never knew existed. The whole “lib­er­als” vs. “con­ser­v­a­tives” divi­sion was explained very well with­out dis­sent­ing into blame or divi­sive­ness, as Mr. Tobin is sim­ply telling a story (and a good one at that) with­out tak­ing sides; of course the reader gets to see events more clearly from the point of view of the sub­ject of the book. I learned a lot from this book, not only about John XXIII, but also about the Chris­t­ian reli­gion in gen­eral and the Catholic sect specif­i­cally. How­ever, many of the terms are “tech­ni­cal” which I never heard of and had to look up many of them and then re-read the sec­tion to under­stand them within context. That being said, the book is very read­able, easy to read on a very like­able sub­ject. I got the impres­sion that John XXIII/ Angelo Ron­calli was truly a very good man, a strong Pope who kept his “priest in the trenches” pri­or­i­ties while hold­ing the high­est level in his occu­pa­tion. An unglam­orous man who was truly a man-of-G-d first and a politi­cian second. One of John XXIII great­est achieve­ments, out­side of pro­vid­ing spir­i­tual guid­ance for indi­vid­u­als, was con­ven­ing the Sec­ond Vat­i­can Coun­cil which was try­ing to reform the church. The Sec­ond Council’s agenda was to open the reli­gion to the mod­ern world while pre­serv­ing the core tra­di­tions, a very dif­fi­cult mis­sion espe­cially with the con­ser­v­a­tives within the Vat­i­can fight­ing tooth and nail against those reforms. The Good Pope is an author­i­ta­tive biog­ra­phy of a poor peas­ant who became Pope, a man full of humil­ity, good­ness and a healthy sense of humor which helped him greatly through­out his ordeals, diplo­matic mis­sions and fac­ing his oppo­nents. Filled with per­sonal pas­sages from Roncalli’s jour­nal, the book is an amaz­ing insight into a man whose short tenure left a large legacy. For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    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 capacit 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    I read this book with great anticipation after reading some of the reviews. It had some really great insights into the simple life he lead and how he gave the appearance of a simple peasant, which he was, but was a true master of understanding what needed to be done and then moving reluctant teams to doing it. Pope John XXIII accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and this book did a great job of showing how he really planned for his Papacy and came to it with specific goals and a v I read this book with great anticipation after reading some of the reviews. It had some really great insights into the simple life he lead and how he gave the appearance of a simple peasant, which he was, but was a true master of understanding what needed to be done and then moving reluctant teams to doing it. Pope John XXIII accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and this book did a great job of showing how he really planned for his Papacy and came to it with specific goals and a vision of what he wanted to do. The book comes up short in clearly defining John's vision for the church. It does explain it in high level terms but given the desire to make this more of a motivational tale it seems too high level. I think it skimps too lightly on the details on the Vatican II council. Granted Pope John was not involved that deeply but it was deep enough. This is a good book which could have been better!

  10. 5 out of 5

    M Christopher

    A good quick summary of the life of a remarkable man and his major achievement. The book suffers slightly from a tendency toward hagiography, which I suppose is inevitable in the biography of an actual saint. There are also signs of sloppy hurried editing and of the tension between objective reporting and allowing the author to celebrate a man who is obviously one of his own heroes. Tobin also is occasionally heavy-handed with his analysis of events and the writings of John XXIII and his opponen A good quick summary of the life of a remarkable man and his major achievement. The book suffers slightly from a tendency toward hagiography, which I suppose is inevitable in the biography of an actual saint. There are also signs of sloppy hurried editing and of the tension between objective reporting and allowing the author to celebrate a man who is obviously one of his own heroes. Tobin also is occasionally heavy-handed with his analysis of events and the writings of John XXIII and his opponents. All in all, however, worth reading as an introduction. I intend to follow this up with more in-depth studies of Angelo Roncalli's life and work and particularly the continuing impact of Vatican II.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Silva

    Wow, this book relates the strong force that Blessed Pope John XXIII was in bringing the changes of Vatican II to the Church and the world! His simple beginnings in the farm country of northern Italy to his assignments as a 'diplomat' in various countries to his almost 5 years as Pope; this book relates all of this in a moving way. (It also related his influence in helping to defuse the Cuban Missile crisis, something I never heard about.) The 2nd to last chapter is a very moving account of Pope Wow, this book relates the strong force that Blessed Pope John XXIII was in bringing the changes of Vatican II to the Church and the world! His simple beginnings in the farm country of northern Italy to his assignments as a 'diplomat' in various countries to his almost 5 years as Pope; this book relates all of this in a moving way. (It also related his influence in helping to defuse the Cuban Missile crisis, something I never heard about.) The 2nd to last chapter is a very moving account of Pope John's last hours; it draws forth emotions, even 50+ years later! I feel like now I need to read more about and from this historic Pope, a saint in our times!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The book served as both a short biography on Pope St. John XXIII as well as an informative writing on the Vatican II Council. I quite enjoyed reading the novel. A nice background on the early life, how a farmer turned priest turned diplomat became Pope, and major things he did during his papacy. In terms of Vatican II we learn just how troublesome it was as the Bishops were having troubles coming to agreements on anything, but in the end compromises were made. Overall it was an enlightening nove The book served as both a short biography on Pope St. John XXIII as well as an informative writing on the Vatican II Council. I quite enjoyed reading the novel. A nice background on the early life, how a farmer turned priest turned diplomat became Pope, and major things he did during his papacy. In terms of Vatican II we learn just how troublesome it was as the Bishops were having troubles coming to agreements on anything, but in the end compromises were made. Overall it was an enlightening novel and hammered out in about three days. I even almost cried as Pope John lied dieing. Even after fifty years his works still have the power to touch lives.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kela

    Very enjoyable book about the man who rose from very humble beginnings to become the worldwide leader of the Catholic church. Pope John's ecumenical spirit should be a lesson for us all. I do wish the author had included at least a few pictures. He also could have done a better job of explaining some of the terms (especially the Latin ones) used throughout the book. Not everyone who reads the book will be Catholic and not all Catholics are familiar with the hierarchy and inner-workings of the ch Very enjoyable book about the man who rose from very humble beginnings to become the worldwide leader of the Catholic church. Pope John's ecumenical spirit should be a lesson for us all. I do wish the author had included at least a few pictures. He also could have done a better job of explaining some of the terms (especially the Latin ones) used throughout the book. Not everyone who reads the book will be Catholic and not all Catholics are familiar with the hierarchy and inner-workings of the church.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Another excellent book by Tobin about the Catholic Church. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was the son of a poor Italian farmer. This biography makes a brief mention of his early life but does an excellent job of tracing his life in the Church from seminary to the his death as Pope John XXIII. The Second Vatican Council is covered as one of Pope John XXIII's triumphs and his struggle with cancer is also documented. This is an outstanding read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    3.5 I like the personal stories about Good Pope John best. Things like "Your holiness how many people work at the Vatican? About half." ...make me laugh and want to read my other biographies of him. Also, this made me want to pick up "Journal of a Soul" again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    You know I learned about about this guy but to have to slog through each of his encyclicals - that was kind of drowsy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marge

    Wonderful biography of the saintly Pope. He was not an intellectual but built his life and papacy upon charity and life experience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Paul Ryan

    Solid biography of a genuinely humble and loving pope. Could have used more detail about the changes Vatican II instituted (and less trashing of conservatives), but it was still enjoyable to read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jason Cecil

    What a nice biography! The author clearly knows and loves his subject. It gave me a better understanding of Vatican II and how John XXIII changed the Catholic Church.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Very readable history of John XXIII.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    I never knew anything about Pope John 23. I loved learning about him and the changes he brought to Catholicism. The picture drawn of him in this biography, makes me wish I had known him.

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Prejean

    Very good book. It provided me with a picture of who Pope John XXIII was and what a great man he was.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Telps

    A fine biography of a great man, leader, and world mover. I found the book enligtening and very interesting. I would recommend it to anyone who wonders what was the inspiration for Vatican II.

  24. 4 out of 5

    False

    This was a nice overview, but I would rather have been reading from the sources he cites.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lee

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yolanda

  27. 4 out of 5

    Martha

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Don

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin Tierney

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