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Habemus Papam

In response to the badgering of reporters during the interregnum about whether the new pope would be a liberal or a conservative, Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia responded that the next pope will be Catholic.  With the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, the Church has not only a Catholic pope but one whose immense erudition and personal holiness guarantee a flourishing papacy.  In The Rise of Benedict XVI, John Allen, Jr., the capable and well-informed Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, provides a fair and balanced, if somewhat slipshod (no doubt reflecting the great haste of its composition), account of the elevation of Pope Benedict XVI and what may be expected from him during his reign.

The first half of Allen’s book is excellent reporting on the events surrounding the conclave.  He begins with a poignant depiction of the death of Pope John Paul II, about whose papacy he offers a graceful appreciation.  As dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Ratzinger was at the center of all the events immediately following the demise of Pope John Paul II, and Allen demonstrates how this prominence led to the eventual election of Ratzinger as the 265th pope.  Allen is absorbing on the rather complicated politics surrounding a papal election.

In the second half, Allen provides a biographical portrait of Ratzinger and an outline...

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