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 is a top-flight journalist with a international reputation as a commentator on religion, society and political issues. He was correspondent for The Times in Ethiopia during the famine of 1984-5 for which he was commended as International Reporter of the Year. He was the co-author of Bob Geldof's massive-selling autobiography, Is That It? and was later involved in the organisation of Live 8. In 2004 he was seconded to the Commission for Africa set up by the British prime minister, Tony Blair where he worked on the Commission's report Our Common Interest (later published by Penguin). He is the editor of The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st century and has advised the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. He was created a CMG 'for services to journalism and to the developing world' in 2006 and is currently associate editor of the Independent newspaper.