cover image HEIRS OF THE FISHERMAN: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession

HEIRS OF THE FISHERMAN: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession

John-Peter Pham, . . Oxford, $28 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-19-517834-0

When the next conclave meets to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, this book could easily be required reading for papal observers and journalists reporting on the election. Pham, a writer and former Vatican diplomat and aide, presents an insider's view of the coming election buttressed by a thorough history and thoughtful analysis of the picking of popes. He explains the origins of the conclave (taken from the Latin, cum clave , meaning "with key") and how the present pope's alterations of the system that chose him will affect the first papal election of the 21st century. Pham also proposes and vets a short list of possible candidates, known as papabili . Although he is not the first to preview the next papal election in this fashion (John Allen's 2002 book, Conclave, provided a concise and readable overview), Pham's work is notable for its detail. He devotes extensive space to notes and appendices that include a complete list of popes beginning with St. Peter; John Paul's 1996 document on papal elections; a list of cardinals currently eligible to vote; biographical annotations on figures mentioned in the text; and a glossary of church terms. Pham's exhaustive approach and informed view will appeal to anyone interested in more than a cursory treatment of this fascinating subject. (Jan.)