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On Heaven and Earth, by Pope Francis

Book by the Pope

On Heaven and Earth is an expansive dialogue between the then Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Abraham Skorka, a Rabbi and biophysicist, sharing thoughts on religion, reason, and the challenges of the 21st Century.

On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka (Random House)

- Review by John L. Allen Jr

The book first appeared in Spanish in 2010, and it's invaluable as a guide to the thinking of the Pope across a wide range of issues - from capitalism and globalization to interreligious dialogue and feminism, even matters of leadership style.

'The bad leader is the one who is self-assured and stubborn,' the Pope writes at one point. 'One of the characteristics of a bad leader is to be excessively normative because of his self-assurance.'

Though he doesn't exactly come off as a laugh riot, Francis even serves up a couple of quips. Discussing a certain strain of feminism that he believes promotes a masculine model of gender conflict, he refers to it tongue-in-cheek as 'chauvinism with skirts.'

One caution is in order: It's not always possible to draw a straight line between views expressed prior to election to the papacy, and what someone will do once they're actually in the job.

That said, for those wondering where Francis will come down on any number of issues - priestly celibacy, end-of-life care, refusal of communion to Catholic politicians who break with Church teaching, and so on - On Heaven and Earth is the best early guide out there.

Overall, the impression of Pope Francis that emerges is of a moderate realist. He comes off as committed to classic Christian orthodoxy (clearly defending the idea of the Devil as a personal force of evil, for instance), always expressed in balanced fashion, and with a special emphasis on the poor and those at the margins of society.

'Religious truth does not change, but it does develop and grow,' Francis writes. 'It is like with the human being. We are the same as a baby and in old age, but in the middle there is a whole journey.'

Read full review: Book indicates pope is a moderate realist (National Catholic Register)

More coverage:

PODCAST: Madeleine Teahan, Rabbi Sheridan and Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith discuss ‘On Heaven and Earth’ by Pope Francis (The Catholic Herald)

On Heaven and Earth by Pope Francis and Abraham Skorka: Will the Church become just another charity? (The New Statesman)

Buy the book: Garratt Publishing

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