by Manya Brachear Pashman)
A Chicago Roman Catholic press says it has beat out the nation's top publishing houses for the rights to produce the North American English translation of the first sweeping collection of Pope Francis’ words since he became pontiff.
Loyola Press, the publishing arm of the Chicago-area Jesuits, expects to publish “The Church of Mercy,“ a compilation of essays, speeches and homilies written by Pope Francis since his election, in time for Easter. Readers can reserve copies starting March 13, marking a year since the pope’s election.
“Pope Francis is arguably the most fascinating person on the planet,” said Joe Durepos, the executive editor of trade acquisitions at Loyola Press, who closed the deal. “For us as a small, Jesuit-owned publishing company to publish a book by Pope Francis in the English language market was a no-brainer.”
“It aligns with our mission,” he added. “It’s everything we're about as we move into the 21st century. The mandate I got was: ‘Get the book.’”
Loyola was the first publisher to respond when bidding opened earlier this month, Durepos said. In keeping in with industry standards, that gave Loyola the advantage of bidding last and therefore the most. Loyola editors received the manuscript Wednesday.
Durepos could not confirm a dollar amount for the publishing rights and didn’t know how many other publishers had bid for the book.
Loyola rose to prominence in 1997 when it released “The Gift of Peace,” Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's best-selling memoir about his final three years.
Since then, Loyola has published “My Life With the Saints,” by the Rev. James Martin and more recently, “Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads,” about the Jesuit principles that have made Francis a popular and successful leader since greeting the world for the first time as pope.
Steve Connor, director of product development at Loyola, said the book also captures the tone that Francis set that night on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square when he implored the throngs: “Pray for me.”
“Instead of a church that is closed within itself, his gesture of opening his arms to embrace everyone is his stance for the church today,” Connor said.
“The Church of Mercy” for the first time in one volume presents the pope’s views on the church existing among and for the people, the church’s solidarity with the poor and his mission to combat what he sees as the idolatry of power and money. According to Darton, Longman and Todd, the title’s publisher in the United Kingdom, the book is aimed at believers and nonbelievers alike, priests, parishioners and teachers.
Books published by the Vatican are released first in Italian, in accordance with a long-standing Vatican decree on papal publications, said Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director for permissions and Bible utilization of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Rev. Mark Francis, president of Catholic Theological Union, a school of theology in Hyde Park, said while books by Benedict were popular among clergy, he expects titles from Pope Francis to have a wider appeal.
“This pope speaks and communicates in a very informal kind of way, a very accessible way to the average person,” Francis said.
“It allows people to get a more full understanding of his thought on a given topic,” he said. “It’s worthwhile. He’s one of the first popes, in my estimation, who is able to speak in concise sentences. … He’s pastoral. He knows what’s going to stick in people’s minds.”
Churning out books that capture the public’s imagination also reflects this pope’s spirit of evangelization, Sperry said.
“Having his book on the book shelf is way to introduce the teaching of the church and the message of the gospel to people who might not find it otherwise,” she said. “This is a way of going to the people instead of waiting for them to come find you. It’s a way of taking the church to the streets, something Pope Francis has spoken very eloquently about.”