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A powerful and challenging book overrides its transparent weaknesses. The theme, the setting, the dominant figures would seem to demand a vaster canvas; in the limitations of a novel there is sometimes a sense of crowding, almost of clutter. And yet -- the reader, if he finds himself in sympathy with what West is attempting, is carried along -- well beyond the scope of the book itself....The Pope has died. The conclave elects- virtually by acclamation- a new Pope, one who has suffered for the faith, and been released from bondage in his native Russia. Cardinal Lakota is younger than customary; he has proved his courage; he is big enough to acknowledge his fears. This is his story, in the opening months of his new role -- a role he has determined will not confine itself to the orthodox limitations of acceptance of tradition, but a role which will revive the lagging spirit of the Church, restore the missionary zeal of the early apostles, throw aside the ingrown Roman yoke and reach out into the hearts of the people in all of Catholicism. Too much for one book -- but the lines are laid down in multiple strands:- through extracts from the new Pope's personal diary; through narration of his nightly wanderings incognito through his city; through reporting to a New York newspaper -- and subsequently including the seamy story of the journalist's betrayal of himself for a worthless girl; through contacts made, directly and indirectly, by the young Pope, seeking a basic link; through the tragic experience of a Jesuit, recalled to Rome to report on twenty years of scientific research- only to meet refusal to accept his findings. There is implicit- and explicit- criticism, judgment of the failure of the Church to allow the Spirit to rise above the letter of tradition. And yet overall there is a sense of ferment, of vitality, of hope that through widening understanding of all people and Faith in the Divine Spirit, the threat which hangs over today's world can be turned aside and right can triumph. West has succeeded in surmounting a plethora of words, a lack of cohesion between the many facets of his plot and sub-plots. Whether any readers-already hypercritical of Catholic power- can read beyond his acceptance of much they will reject, to the essential humanity of his theme will be something only time can prove. A better book than Daughter of Silence; a bigger theme- though with many parallels- than The Devil's Advocate.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1963
Publisher: Morrow