Thavis’ purpose for the book, laid out in the introduction, is to debunk the myth of the Vatican as a well-oiled, extremely secretive machine. He certainly succeeds in his mission. Through the stories in this book, it’s easy to see that one branch of the Vatican often has no idea what another branch is doing, even keeping the pope in the dark sometimes. This has resulted in amusing blunders and occasionally, worldwide scandals. You get to know some of the individuals that work quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) behind the scenes. There certainly appears to be a wide range of personalities working in the Vatican.
Thavis always treats these personalities with respect. Nowhere is that more clear than in his portrayal of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. For anyone whose only knowledge of these popes is from news headlines, this book gives valuable insights into what they are like as human beings, rather than just as the voice of the Catholic church. Everyone in the Vatican hierarchy is human, after all, with all of the many facets that includes. The Vatican Diaries gives you the big picture of the Catholic Church by showing you the little pictures that make it up. It’s not a difficult, scholarly read by any means. It’s written by a reporter with a love of people and stories, who wants to share the Vatican that he has come to know with the world.