From his first appearance on a Vatican balcony Pope Francis proved himself a Pope of Surprises. With a series of potent gestures, history’s first Jesuit pope declared a mission to restore authenticity and integrity to a Catholic Church bedevilled by sex abuse and secrecy, intrigue and in-fighting, ambition and arrogance. He declared it should be a poor Church, for the poor.
But there is a hidden past to this modest man with the winning smile. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was previously a bitterly divisive figure. His decade as leader of Argentina’s Jesuits left the religious order deeply split. And his behaviour during Argentina’s Dirty War, when military death squads snatched innocent people from the streets, raised serious questions – on which this book casts new light.
Yet something dramatic then happened to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He underwent an extraordinary transformation. After a time of exile he re-emerged having turned from a conservative authoritarian into a humble friend of the poor – and became Bishop of the Slums, making enemies among Argentina’s political classes in the process.
For Pope Francis – Untying the Knots, Paul Vallely travelled to Argentina and Rome to meet Bergoglio’s intimates over the last four decades. His book charts a remarkable journey. It reveals what changed the man who was to become Pope Francis – from a reactionary into the revolutionary who is unnerving Rome’s clerical careerists with the extent of his behind-the-scenes changes. In this perceptive portrait Paul Vallely offers both new evidence and penetrating insights into the kind of pope Francis could become.
Paul Vallely's biography of Francis.stands, in terms of seriousness of purpose and depth of understanding, head and shoulders above other recent rushed cuttings jobs.
- Peter Stanford The Sunday Times
By the end of this stint of reviewing I have read through 10 biographies of one sort or another of the new Bishop of Rome. This emboldens me to say, without hesitation, that Vallely's is undoubtedly the most satisfactory of an otherwise lacklustre bunch...Vallely, as befits a long-time journalist, has done the legwork...Read this book, forget the rest.
- Michael Walsh The Tablet
Of the new literature rushed out to capitalise on the great interest and the extraordinarily long honeymoon period that Francis is experiencing, Paul Vallely's Pope Francis: Untying the Knots is perhaps the best in the English language..Vallely, with great insight, posits that this painting in some way represents the enigma of Bergoglio: a former provincial with a complicated legacy, but also a man spiritual and humble enough to recognise his mistakes and learn from them... The focus is on Bergoglio the Jesuit provincial, and then Bergoglio as bishopand cardinal. It is both challenging and illuminating...Vallely is an excellent, well-connected writer, and Pope Francis: Untying the Knots is an engaging and thoughtful read throughout.
- Tim Byron S.J.
Thinking Faith No biography, however diligent, can capture someone's interior life. But what this book does demonstrate is that Pope Francis is a tougher, more complex figure than meets the eye...Anybody who reads this book will eagerly await his next move.
- The Economist, UK