The sensational story of the last two centuries of the papacy, its most influential pontiffs, troubling doctrines, and rise in global authority In 1799, the papacy was at rock bottom: The Papal States had been swept away and Rome seized by the revolutionary French armies. With cardinals scattered across Europe and the next papal election uncertain, even if Catholicism survived, it seemed the papacy was finished. In this gripping narrative of religious and political history, Paul Collins tells the improbable success story of the last 220 years of the papacy, from the unexalted death of Pope Pius VI in 1799 to the celebrity of Pope Francis today. In a strange contradiction, as the papacy has lost its physical power-its armies and states-and remained stubbornly opposed to the currents of social and scientific consensus, it has only increased its influence and political authority in the world.
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