One of the most secret meetings to be held anywhere on earth is the Conclave, established upon the death of a Pope which is called to elect a new leader of the Catholic Church. Robert Harris has written a fascinating account about a Conclave held on the demise of a Pope. He is writing based upon conjecture and supposition since there is no manner that could have granted him the means to learn what really happens.
Beyond this, the novel is a fascinating adventure into a meeting of the Church’s Cardinals summoned from around the world to choose a new Pope. The men assembled are deeply religious, committed to a lifetime of service, and anxious to do what is right in choosing a new Pope. They reflect, pray and hope for divine guidance in making their choice. They are holy men, but do have ambition and many will attempt to influence the choice made.
Harris is very successful in bringing the reader into the mind and thoughts of several of the Cardinals assembled in shaping the events depicted. The man appointed “Dean” by the last Pope is charged with moving the conclave forward. He is a man deeply devoted to his beliefs and to his appointed task of guiding the actions of those present. Several of those in attendance want to be the next Pope and attempt to guide the others into choosing them.
The author introduces the problems that are faced by the Church both at present and in the near future. They must be confronted by both the new Pope and the other senior leaders under him. There is the place for women, the use of local language, not Latin in the litany, and the enmity radical Islam feels towards Christianity in general. Definitely not a dry discourse, but a fascinating study of human nature reacting in a stressful environment.
CONCLAVE by Robert Harris. Knopf (November 22, 2016). ISBN 978-0451493446. 304p.