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The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy by Marcantonio Colonna, Regnery Publishing, US $26.99, Pp 230, April 2018, ISBN 978-1621578321

It is commonly believed now that the strange situation in today’s Vatican resembles nothing less than a Dan Brown potboiler novel, complete with conspiracies of eminent churchman, sexual and financial scandals, and shady international banking interests. There has been surprisingly little attention paid to a remark by one of the highest ranking and most powerful prelates in the Western world, that he was elected by a liberal “mafia,” a group of progressive bishops and cardinals who also worked for years to bring about exactly this end.

When Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis in 2013, he had been head of the Catholic Church in Argentina for fifteen years and was nationally a very well-known figure. Politically, Argentina’s dominant ideology in the twentieth century was Peronism, a sort of populist fascism based on the rule of Juan and Evita Peron. Juan Peron was president of Argentina from 1946 to 1955, when he was in his teens. In The Dictator Pope, Marcantonio Colonna argues that Pope Francis’s outlook became riveted by this unique figure and the movement he founded.

Marcantonio Colonna says that the regime Pope Francis conducts from this stronghold is one in which the expectations of reform have been dashed and replaced by a chaos where even his closest associates feel insecure. Initially, he rewarded the two men who served as his agents in Rome while he was archbishop in Buenos Aires: Monsignor Guillermo Karcher and Monsignor Fabian Pedacchio. Pedacchio became a sort of informal papal secretary, succeeded the official holder of that position in 2014 and has remained in favor, at least for now. But Karcher, who at first basked in his dignity as papal cerimoniere, now seems to have lost the pope’s favor and had been sidelined.

Marcantonio Colonna says that the udienza di tabella has been abolished, and access to the papal presence is left to the whim of Pope Francis. Bishops who work in the Vatican will tell you that the old fraternal meetings which the popes used to grant them have disappeared. Some of them have hardly spoken to Francis since he was elected. Nothing could be less “collegial” than the way this hero of the St. Gallen lobby treats his subordinates. The control of the Secretariat of State over the rest of the Curia has become absolute than ever. And everyone, from cardinals to monsignori, is kept in a state of permanent nerves by the naggings, the brusque public criticisms, the sackings, and the convert undermining that are the hallmark of the new regime.

Marcantonio Colonna tells that the atmosphere in the Vatican is so tense and everyone feels insecure. Only a few are willing to risk the pope’s wrath by speaking freely on the phone or committing their frank thoughts to email. Damian Thompson reports that Pope Francis’s outbursts of temper, his rudeness towards subordinates, and his vulgar language have become notorious throughout the Vatican.

The Dictator Pope provides a deep insight into how the Vatican under Pope Francis works. In this meticulously-researched book, Marcantonio Colonna shows that Pope Francis does not respect papal traditions and laws. Packed with new information on and about Pope, The Dictator Pope provides new perspectives and analyses on how Pope Francis runs the Vatican. The Dictator Pope is likely to raise controversies and generate a new debate on the necessary reforms to bring respect back to the office of Pope. It is a must-read for the students and experts of Christianity and Catholicism.

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