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Vaticanologist or Vaticanist is a term coined in the mid-to-late twentieth century to describe journalists, academics and commentators whose area of expertise is in studying and understanding the manner by which the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church operates. Particular emphasis is placed on the selection and appointment mechanisms by which its leadership elite emerges.

Origin and history

It owes its origins to the term Kremlinologist, which was used to describe media, academic and commentary experts who followed the function of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in general and the functioning and selection of the leadership elite in particular.

Both the Kremlin and the Holy See operated in a great degree of secrecy and mystery, hence the attention paid to 'experts' who were presumed to be able to read subtle nuances indicating who was on the 'way up', who was on the 'way down' and who were the 'ones to watch' within their leadership elites.

The most famous Vaticanologist was the author and commentator Peter Hebblethwaite, who wrote biographies of among others Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, as well as a best-selling account of the events of 1978 in Year of Three Popes. Robert Blair Kaiser was a noted contributor in the field, who did much reporting on the Second Vatican Council for TIME magazine.

In 2005, with the first papal election in the age of the 24/7 news cycle and the World Wide Web, many Vaticanologists became prominent through their wide dissemination both on the television and via online publications. The weblog became a popular means for amateur Vatican watchers to share their insights and information.

List of recent vaticanists


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