Pontiff unravels one of the last unexamined mysteries of the modern world
The Vatican has remained one of the last unexamined mysteries of the modern world. For centuries, pomp and pageantry have hidden from view the dramatic, sometimes sinister, realities that haunt the office of Supreme Pontiff and the men who make up his papacy. Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts now bring their tremendous investigative talent to this most secret of institutions, offering us an unrivaled portrait and day-to-day account of the lives, personalities, and relationships of the three most recent popes: an equally fine account of the hour-by-hour deliberations of the closely guarded conclaves at which two popes were elected in the fateful year of 1978; and a remarkable rendering of the concrete issues facing the institutional papacy—in foreign affairs, economic matters, and the human factor—the highly individual ambitions, loyalties, and hatreds that characterize the men and women who serve the Holy Father.
The result is a book that is ahead of the world’s headlines, a book that makes headlines of its own. Not only have the authors brought the world of the Vatican into the open, their sleuthing has uncovered several major news stories. Pontiff includes a day-to-day account of the assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca upon John Paul II: Agca’s history and family, his right-wing political connections, his activities and jailing in Turkey, his escape from jail aided by the KGB, his movements through terrorist training camps in Libya and Syria, and a complete investigation of the Bulgarian connection that led to the shooting in St. Peter’s Square. Here, also, is the story of John Paul II’s involvement with the creation of Solidarity in Poland, and his almost-daily secret contacts with Lech Walesa, as well as the unprecedented letter to Brezhev threatening his resignation from the papal throne. In addition, owing to the authors’ intricate web of connections at the Vatican (including many cardinals), the book contains previously unknown information about the man entrusted with the Church’s money, Paul Marcinkus, and his relationship with the shadowy Michele Sindona. Pontiff is a fascinating revelation of a world previously unknown to us, and an intimate view of a few men in Rome trying to lead an increasingly unwilling world to their own vision of salvation.