But this book should be read as a work of prophecy and hope rather than analysis. In the final section, Francis writes that Covid has taught us “no one is saved alone”. That knowledge demands a new politics of inclusion, he believes. It equips us to avoid both excessive individualism and the aggressive populism that thrives on identifying enemies at home and abroad. “Fraternity,” the pope insists, “is the new frontier”, capable of knitting together the often competing demands of liberty and equality.
This genial, approachable, compassionate man with a stubborn streak may have indeed shifted the mood in a hide-bound institution, but even that is too much dependant on himself personally for it be lasting.
Yes, in this book as elsewhere, he is deeply critical of clericalism in the church and corruption at the Vatican. He discloses how as a young seminarian recovering from serious illness he read Ludwig Pastor’s History of the Popes, and commented “it was as if the Lord was preparing me with a vaccine. Once you know that papal history, there’s not much that goes on in the Vatican curia and the church today that can shock you. It’s been a lot of use to me!”