On 19 April 2005 at 5.50pm, white smoke poured from the Vatican chimney. Joseph Ratzinger had become one of the most important figures on earth. How and why was Pope Benedict XVI elected? And what will his impact be on the Catholic faith and the world? Vatican correspondent John L. Allen draws on his unparalleled knowledge to give the full inside story of the Church's new leadership. In this in-depth account he examines the transition from John Paul II to Benedict XVI, the legacy of the previous Pope and the role of the current leader. He takes us right into the heart of the selection process, interviewing the cardinals who chose Benedict XVI to reveal their thoughts on the new Pope and the reasons why he was picked. And he looks at why this conclave was one of the briefest of modern times. Confronting many difficult questions, Allen asks what the choice of a renowned hard line' traditionalist will mean for 1.1 billion Catholics around the globe. What do the way Ratzinger rose to power, his history and theological views say about how the faith will now move forward? Why did the Vatican choose such a seemingly safe candidate?
And what will the consequences be for Catholicism and the challenges it faces today?
John Allen is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and a Vatican analyst for CNN and National Public Radio. He has also reported for the BBC and will appear in a BBC documentary on Opus Dei later this year. Considered by many as the single best source of insights on Vatican affairs in the English language, (particularly through his internet column "The Word from Rome"), he is the author of four books on the Catholic Church, including All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of how the Vatican Really Thinks (2004) and Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election (1992). His new book, Opus Dei: Secrets and Power Inside the Catholic Church, will be published this autumn. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and many other publications.