The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have gathered in Rome for the papal election following the death of the incumbent pope. Torn by internal conflict and with many of its members alienated, the Church faces one of the most serious crises in its history. A coalition of cardinals favors a more moderate and pluralistic style of papal governance, but must contend with shadowy Vatican forces that oppose change and loss of their own power. These forces are determined to destory the coalition's candidate, a gentle and brilliant Spanish scholar. The leader of the coalition is Chicago's wily Sean Cardinal Cronin, aided by his patently indispensable sidekick, Bishop John Blackwood "Blackie" Ryan.
A lone assassin stalks the Vatican, his crazed mission: to destroy the next pope as soon as the traditional white smoke issues from the cardinals' meeting room--the Sistine Chapel--followed by the ancient words Habemus papam.
Can politics--Chicago style--turn the Catholic Church around? What will happen when the next pope must be chosen? Only Andrew M. Greeley, priest, bestselling novelist, and respected sociologist could have written this blockbuster tale of the forces actually ripping the Church apart, and of the next papal election, when the fate of the entire Catholic Church itself may well hang in the balance.