Duffy’s “Ten Popes Who Shook the World”

Historian Eamon Duffy (Cambridge) is justly famous for his magnificent book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, in which he detailed the situation of English Catholicism at the hands of the Tudor monarchy during the Protestant Reformation.

He will soon publish Ten Popes Who Shook the World (Yale UP 2011), which looks to be a wonderful treatment of several of the most important popes in history.  Unlike some other books about the papacy which have recently been published, this is sure to be a serious, though still readable, study.  I only wish that Duffy had included Pope Leo XIII.  As my old students in Catholic Social Thought and The Law will remember, Leo XIII was a deeply important and influential pope.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

The Bishops of Rome have been Christianity’s most powerful leaders for nearly two millennia, and their influence has extended far beyond the purely spiritual. The popes have played a central role in the history of Europe and the wider world, not only shouldering the spiritual burdens of their ancient office, but also in contending with – and sometimes precipitating – the cultural and political crises of their times. In an acclaimed series of BBC radio broadcasts Eamon Duffy explored the impact of ten popes he judged to be among ‘the most influential in history’. With this book, readers may now also enjoy Duffy’s portraits of ten exceptional men who shook the world.

The book begins with St Peter, the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church was built, and follows with Leo the Great (fifth century), Gregory the Great (sixth century), Gregory VII (eleventh century), Innocent III (thirteenth century), Paul III (sixteenth century), and Pius IX (nineteenth century). Among twentieth-century popes, Duffy examines the lives and contributions of Pius XII, who was elected on the eve of the Second World War, the kindly John XXIII, who captured the world’s imagination, and John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years. Each of these ten extraordinary individuals, Duffy shows, shaped their own worlds, and in the process, helped to create ours.. Each of these ten, Duffy shows, was an extraordinary individual who helped shape the world we know today.

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