There are one billion Catholics in the world today, spread over every continent, speaking almost every conceivable language, and all answering to a single authority. The Vatican is a unique international organization, both in terms of its extraordinary power and influence, and in terms of its endurance. Popes come and go, but the elaborate and complex bureaucracy called the Vatican lives on. For centuries, it has served and sometimes undermined popes; it has been praised and blamed for the actions of the pope and for the state of the church. Yet an objective examination of the workings of the Vatican has been unavailable until now.
Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with Vatican officials, this book affords a firsthand look at the people, the politics, and the organization behind the institution. Reese brings remarkable clarity to the almost Byzantine bureaucracy of congregations, agencies, secretariats, tribunals, nunciature, and offices, showing how they serve the pope and, through him, the universal church. He gives a lively account of how popes are elected and bishops appointed, how dissident theologians are disciplined and civil authorities dealt with. Throughout, revealing and colorful anecdotes from church history and the present day bring the unique culture of the Vatican to life.
The Vatican is a fascinating institution, a model of continuity and adaptation, which remains constant while functioning powerfully in a changing world. As never before, this book provides a clear, objective perspective on how the enormously complex institution surrounding the papacy operates on a day-to-day level, how it has adapted and endured for close to two thousand years, and how it is likely to face the challenges of the next millennium.