Timothy John Cardinal Mulrennan returns (Conclave (2001)—and gets elected Pope.
While still Archbishop for Newark, Mulrennan was called to Rome to organize business in the Curia Romana and spent several years there learning Vatican politics. He loved Pope John but stood against the ultraconservative Evangelium Christi. When Good Pope John dies, a Filipino is elected, but Innocent XIV is assassinated within six months (by Muslim fanatics?), and Mulrennan is his successor: Pope Celestine VI. Now we learn that Innocent XIV had planned to bring the Church into the modern world, a plan admired today by Mulrennan. The new pope, a knowing politician, spots his enemies quickly when he decides to call an ecumenical council of bishops to discuss “a world of unspeakable terrorism and abuse of human beings,” to seek unity among Christian denominations, and understanding between Christians and other faiths, such as Judaism and Islam. The successor to an assassinated pope, Mulrennan knows firsthand the horrors of terrorism: he lent his presence and aid to victims of the World Trade Center attack. Meanwhile, Kurt Schulhafer, a veteran of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, is rubbed out after he attempts to hire a murderer to kill a young guardsman who may expose Schulhafer’s homosexual past and cost him his job, pension, and family. This points to the need for heightened security measures for Mulrennan and the 4,000 bishops attending the council. Mix in a troubled parish priest called to Rome from New Jersey, his old Greek girlfriend (now a bureau chief in Rome), a girl from Bosnia-Herzegovina who has seen the Virgin six times and received ten secrets by her, a tumor on Mulrennan’s spine, a fanatical Argentine businessman sponsored by Evangelium Christi who murders Mulrennan’s closest advisor and has plans for a suicide plot.
Plenty of description and Church background material, but still a gripping read as words march for their presold audience.