This is one of those books with no idea of what it is about because it isn't about anything. Taking a non-event as his spurious starting-point, Flamini, who covered the Vatican for Time, recounts the efforts of Pope John XXIII to ease relations between the Holy See and Moscow, and his unsuccessful attempt to act as a go-between in U.S.-Soviet affairs. Kennedy, a newly-elected Catholic, couldn't take the political risk of being publically involved with a Pope, so the Pontiff's plans never got off the ground. This is not much, so Flamini throws in a lot of fluff including Pope John's death-bed scene, the ritual of choosing a new Pope, etc., in addition to mapping out some of the terrain of Vatican bureaucratic warfare. The CIA's palpitations over John's softening toward the Russians offer some comic relief along the way as Flamini keeps going by following Pope Paul's policies toward Eastern Europe--all of which is supposed to show that the Vatican's attention was already on that part of the world before the installation of a Polish Pope. Since the un-summit won't get him very far, Flamini winds up flailing around without a coherent theme or any significant content.