Note by Adriana Valerio
(author, theologian, researcher in history of Christianity
at Naples Italy University Federico II)
On first sight, Vittorio Russo's book may seem irreverent. However, the precision of the historical details, related in an imaginative yet caustic narrative, provides Catholics like myself with food for thought, stimulating critical reflection not only about the disconcerting aberrations of the past, but also of ecclesiastical institutions in our own age. We are encouraged to ponder calmly the need to look at the ideals expressed in the Gospel in a new light.
Note by Ambrogio Donini
(Writer and theologian)
Vittorio Russo, a religious historian, has written two previous works: INTRODUZIONE AL GESU' STORICO (Introduction to the Historical Jesus) and IL GESU' STORICO (The Historical Jesus), the latter winning the Montecatini Literary Award in 1980. Russo has initiated a serious investigation into the life of Jesus, using a historical and critical approach to explore both the political and religious imnplications of his mission.
Note by Marcello Craveri
(writer and theologian)
Vittorio Russo has long been an enthusiastic writer about Christianity and approaches the subject with historical accuracy, as his first two works show. These works are: Introduction to the Historical Jesus (1977) and The Historical Jesus (1978), for which I wrote a lengthy introduction.
In his first two books, Russo painstakingly explores the figure of Christ as the preacher of a new religion. However, in this book he uses a different approach - the narrative form is an ironic and caustic dialogue between a recent pope who is not named and God Himself, who appears unexpectedly to His Holiness one night. The aim of His visit is to reproach His Holiness and all the popes who went before him for their errors, abuses, violence, persecution, inquisitions, holy wars and misdeeds committed in the name of God and Christ, not forgetting the lasciviousness of their scandalous lifestyle and the ill-gotten gains of the Vatican.
I have known the author for many years and always thought he was an atheist, like myself. However, his indignation at the myriad misdeeds committed down the centuries by the various popes makes me think that Vittorio Russo has a naturally religious inclination. He appears to propound the ideals of social justice, believing in moral behaviour, the tenets of which are honesty, love for your neighbour, tolerance and forgiveness.
What makes this book a pleasure to read is the contrast between the gravity of a scandalised, disillusioned God and the apparent bonhomie of the pope (called Holiness) who barefacedly defends his conduct and that of his predecessors.
The dialogue is a well-balanced duel as both He and Holiness defend their own difficult positions, with subtle cuts and erudite thrusts keeping the reader on tenterhooks. The author stage-manages the confrontation, gradually raising the stakes and the tension, while maintaining a competent balancing act. The climax is an ingenious and unexpected dénouement, as I will let the readers discover for themselves!
Go to Complete Text - Part 1