Conclave by Robert Harris

Conclave by Robert Harris


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Conclave by Robert Harris
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‘Unputdownable’ Guardian
‘Gripping’ Sunday Times


The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

Reviews


”Sede vacante, . . . .The throne of the Holy See is vacant.”
 
The Power of God, the Ambition of Men. Conclave Robert Harris ebook download
The Power of God, the Ambition of Men.
Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli has been contemplating retirement to peaceful meditation and study for several years now, but the Pope insists that he still needs him at the Vatican. Lomeli is maybe a better manager than he is priest. This assessment makes Jacopo uneasy because it feels like a deviation from what he feels his real purpose should be.

Can a manager truly be close to God? How much closer to God can he get than to be the Dean for the Pope? He is seventy-five years old and serves at the discretion of the Pope. By serving the Pope, he serves God.

And then the Pope dies.

After the initial shock and more than a few prayers, Lomeli suddenly realizes, as the Dean, he is responsible for managing the conclave that will select the next Pope. God have mercy on his soul.

”My body is clay, my good fame a vapour, my end is ashes.”

Managing a conclave is pretty much as terrifying as it seems. The egos of the Cardinals arriving are so large that the room can barely contain the mass of their collective self-esteem. As we all know, they must be sequestered during the conclave to insure that no outside influence can be brought to bear on the process. Despite all the precautions, there are always those who will go to great lengths to circumvent any system. Fervent disagreements arise early in the process as Cardinals jockey for votes, as piously as possible, thinly disguising their most vehement desires to be the most powerful spiritual leader on the planet. Lomeli is unnerved by the spectacle of so much naked aspirations, but at the same time, he is also trying to control his own ambitious pride. ”We are an ark, he thought, surrounded by a rising flood of discord.”

He doesn’t want to be Pope. He doesn’t, but he does have the name he would use selected if God does call him to serve. As much as Lomeli tells himself and others that he doesn’t want to be Pope, there is a small part of his heart that glows with the possibility.

As if Lomeli doesn’t have enough to do, an unknown Cardinal shows up claiming that he received the red hat: ”In pectore (‘in the heart’) was the ancient provision under which a Pope could create a cardinal without revealing his name….” A Pope only does this if the Cardinal is working in an area hostile to Catholicism. Cardinal Benitez is a Filipino by birth but has worked in dangerous areas across Africa. He has the paperwork to prove that the recently departed Pope had named him the Cardinal of Baghdad.

There is a series of votes without any conclusive leader. There are four main contenders, but each of them has issues that could keep them from obtaining the papacy. I found myself sliding my thumb over the tallies until I’d read the paragraphs leading up to the results. I was on the edge of my seat in similar fashion to when I was watching the movie Lincoln, and they were voting on the Emancipation Proclamation.

As more and more is revealed about the leading candidates, Lomeli finds himself in the uncomfortable position of investigating the various allegations that start to come to light. As he makes these indiscretions known to the Cardinals, it starts to look like Lomeli is meticulously eliminating his competition to be Pope.

Is he just doing his duty, or is his secret desire guiding his actions? The shocking conclusion(s) to this conclave will rock you on your heels.

In the course of his novel, Robert Harris had the opportunity to discuss the growing number of Catholics located outside of Europe and their underrepresentation with Cardinal hats. One wonders when that revolution will spark. It makes perfect sense to me that maybe the Pope needs more than one residence. When I think about the Kings/Queens of England and their numerous households scattered about the British Isles, it makes sense that they would spend time at each of these residences to show an interest in their subjects far from London. Maybe the Pope needs an offshoot of the Vatican in South America, for instance, where he would spend a few weeks every year. There is also an interesting discussion about Islam and how we welcome them to our Western countries, but we are certainly not welcome in theirs.

No one has more influence in the world than the President of the United States. He (I guess I can call him he since there has never been a woman president) can have a positive or a negative impact on the direction of events in the world. As I’ve traveled around Europe, the people of those nations are well aware of the impact the decisions made by the President have on their lives. They wish they had a vote in the process. They count on us as United States citizens to choose wisely. The Pope might be the second most influential man on world events. Certainly world leaders, regardless of their political or religious affiliations, appreciate the support of the Pope in regards to any changes they are trying to make to the lives of their citizens.

So far 127,253,037 votes have been counted of the people who elected the next President of the United States. Over 2 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than did for Donald Trump, but due to the system put in place by our Founding Fathers, who didn’t really trust the rabble of American voters, the electoral college supersedes the results of the popular vote. Sounds vaguely undemocratic, doesn’t it?

There are 1.2 billion Catholics across the face of the planet. 41.3% of those Catholics live in South America, almost double the 23.7% that live in Europe. 118 Cardinals (there are more Cardinals than this, but there is a rule that those over 80 years of age cannot vote in the conclave) are sequestered in conclave to decide who will be the next spiritual leader of those 1.2 billion people. You are going to need a lot of zeros after the decimal point before you reach the percentage of representation those 118 embody.

Here are how the Cardinals break down by country.

AFRICA - 20 cardinals from 17 countries
AMERICA - 57 cardinals from 19 countries
ASIA - 23 cardinals from 11 countries
EUROPE - 114 cardinals from 24 countries
OCEANIA - 5 cardinals from 3 countries

TOTAL - 219 cardinals from 73 countries
 
Map of populations of Catholics in the World.


Anybody else see something askew? Europeans hold a huge advantage in electing the Pope, regardless of the number of Catholics they represent. So as undemocratic as this recent United States presidential election feels, it is without contestation way closer to representing the wishes of the people than the process used to determine the leader of the Catholic church.

I know I’ve drifted away from a standard book review, but this is the result of reading. This book brought up some points which made me curious to explore further. I’ve deepened my understanding of those issues, and that will make me a better reader for books that touch on this same issue in the future. Regardless of how interested you are in the bigger picture, this book is a fantastic, page turning thriller that had me up til 2AM to find out who would be the next Pope. Highly Recommended!

Harris returns with another remarkable novel of historical fiction, turning his narrative to the present as explores a highly pious and political event. THE POPE IS DEAD! This startling piece of news makes its way to the ears of Cardinal Lomeli in the early hours one October morning. 
Heading to the apartment of the Holy Father, Lomeli is met by a small group, who confirm the news and begin the prescribed acts required when the Vatican is without its Supreme Pontiff. As the news becomes public, Lomeli is tasked with preparing for the highly publicised, though extremely secret, event known as The Conclave. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, Lomeli must organise the election of the next pope, which is only a few weeks hence. During the intervening time, the funeral must take place and Lomeli handles sundry pieces of Vatican business ahead of the papal election. As cardinals arrive from all over the world to cast their ballots, Lomeli wrestles with a few issues surrounding cardinal electors, including one Cardinal Tremblay, the Vatican Camerlengo, its temporary leader, a French-Canadian who was apparently removed from all positions the night before the pope died. As if this were not enough to occupy his time, as 117 confirmed cardinals have arrived for Conclave, a mysterious figure appears and makes he known that he, too, is a cardinal eligible to choose the next pontiff. Vincent Benitez, Archbishop of Baghdad, was appointed a cardinal in pectore, 'in the heart', and was known only to the recently deceased pope and God. Seeing the documentation and meditating on this oddity, Lomeli grants Benitez access to the Conclave and the preliminary events commence. Even before being sequestered into the Sistene Chapel, there are a few front runners for the position, all of whom seek to solidify their supporters before the voting begins. Tremblay stands firm that he can speak best for the Catholic Church, being a North American without being from America; Bellini, the current Secretary of State from Italy, served the last pope well on the world scene and can continue with his liberal outlook in directing the Church; Adeyemi, a cardinal from Nigeria, seeks to lead the way for the Third World and present the Church with its first black pontiff; and Tedesco, Italian and pining for a return of a fellow countryman to the Throne of St. Peter, who will also remove the impediments that Vatican II ushered in, keeping the faith pure and the language of the Church equally so. These four men vie as best they can before cardinals place their minds in God's hand to help them cast their ballots. Once the Conclave begins, Lomeli must continue running it by the strict orders laid out in the Apostolic Constitution, which includes specific rules and processes. While the outside world is left to wonder what is going on, receiving only the most minimal of news in the form of curling smoke from a chimney, inside the Sistene Chapel there is much politicking. Lomeli uncovers great issues with two of the front runners, whose power dwindles as the Dean uses the Constitution to keep the Conclave on track. As the ballots mount, surprises continue, and not even an act of terror can stop the cardinals from choosing the new Catholic leader. Voting continues until one cardinal receives the proscribed two-thirds of the votes, which seems almost impossible until impassioned speeches before the eighth ballot. Lomeli is on the verge of witnessing history, but even then, there is one more surprise that no one saw coming. The Catholic Church is set to change dramatically, though its congregants cannot know how deeply divided its upper echelon has become over a single decision. From the embers of the deceased pope comes the cry the world has waited to hear: Habemus papam (We have a Pope)! A thought-provoking thriller that keeps readers glued to the page until the very last sentence.

This is a brilliant piece that pulls together the most political event in the world, far exceeding the election of an American president (and this is from a non-Catholic). The intricacies and nuances with a Conclave are enough to drive any historian or political fanatic mad, but to create one in a piece of fiction is surely an even more onerous task. Harris develops a wonderful collection of characters to serve as cardinals and support staff, though he promises in his author's note that none are based on actual people. Using these multi-dimensional individuals, the narrative moves in interesting ways to enrich the story the further it advances, using Lomeli as the central protagonist throughout. From what I know of Conclaves and the rules surrounding them, Harris has used everything at his disposal to create momentum in the most interesting of spots without dragging things out too much or weighing the story down in a constitutional miasma. Tackling the fallibility of each cardinal, the struggle between man and God, the views of the outside world, and the highly political event that is electing the Supreme Pontiff, Harris delivers a thriller that far exceeds any expectations and does so in under three hundred pages. Weaving dramatic interactions into the storyline, the reader is left to cheer on their favourite cardinal, in hopes that he will obtain the magic eighty votes. I cannot think of a novel that churned up so much political excitement in me or so flawlessly depicts this highly secretive event as a Conclave. Readers of all political and religious stripes will surely enjoy devouring this piece, which reads so fluidly and is timeless in its presentation that it could be read over the years without losing any lustre.

Kudos, Mr. Harris for entertaining, educating, and keeping the reader guessing until the very end. I cannot think of a better novel to read to contrast and compare with the circus of the upcoming US General Election.

This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late...

Interesting, fascinating, intriguing. 'Unputdownable'(Guardian), yes, that is the right word.
The process of the Vatican Conclave, the thought of the beautiful art there and an intrigue. What goes on behind those closed doors? It kept me reading to get to the twist. The twist... mmmm... far fetched? Well who knows, in today's day & age. I did love the struggle of Cardinal & Dean Lomeli in guiding the delicate process of the Conclave. Great book. Note: great cover. The atmosphere of the red cover pulled me in. In the afterword the author writes that he was allowed to visit the locations used during a Conclave that are permanently closed to the public. Wow, wish I could do that...
It made me think I really need to visit Rome and the Vatican again soon. Wander the streets in wonder and awe.... Great book. Recommended!

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the Apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit'. But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!'...

4.5 Stars

I was baptized Catholic, my mother raised in the Catholic faith, my father converted so they could be married in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. My older brother was also baptized Catholic, not that I recall either of these events, but I do remember when my younger brother was baptized in the Episcopal church, where we went until I was in my early teens. I didn’t know until I was 24, when my godmother mentioned it to me, but I did spend a bit of time inside the Catholic church growing up, with one neighborhood girl who enjoyed “sneaking” in to light the candles. This wasn’t all that strange considering that even though it’s probably a mile walk, the woods behind my house backed up to the Catholic Church property.

It’s 2:00 a.m. when Cardinal Lomeli is hurried through the dark walkways of the Vatican to the Pope’s bedroom, whispering prayers as he hastens to his side, begging for his life to be spared. Memories of their last talks flood his thoughts as the elevator slowly rises.

”Later, Lomeli would look back on this as the moment when the contest for the succession began.”

The Pope was gone before Lomeli arrived at his side, and he is grieving, not wanting to face the responsibilities that are now facing him. He is the Dean of the Cardinals, and as such it is his job to make sure that he is on top of everything involved in the Conclave, the transition from the now deceased, much loved Pope, to the newly elected Pope-to-be. It must be handled flawlessly, the entire world will be watching.

One hundred and eighteen Cardinals from all over the world gather for this process, the College of Cardinals voting over and over until there is a clear choice. This was fascinating to me. I had only read the first 20 pages the day before, but I could not put this book down once I picked it up again. There are some hints that perhaps some of the Cardinals are more favoured than others to rank higher in the number of votes, but the process is such that it gives you a perspective that can’t be attained with only one vote, such as in the US Presidential polls.

As each voting “round” goes by, the votes are counted for each Cardinal. Behind the scenes of each vote, though, there is enough scheming and maneuvering to make your head spin. Would the leading three Cardinals in position maintain their positions? Which one of them would be the next Bishop of Rome, the Pope?

This is a truly fascinating novel, with writing that just flows effortlessly from page to page leaving the reader to focus on this fictional peek behind these lives lived beyond our sight, peeling back the layers of sins, the secrets, the mysteries of these lives.

Harris had the privilege of visiting these locations, not available to the public, to facilitate his research. It shows in the lovely details he gives of the process, the location, the traditions, day-to-day life and dedication involved. This really helped to bring this to life for me.

The author, Robert Harris, was given the privilege of visiting the locations that are permanently closed to the public to help him in his research of this book. The reader is given an in-depth tour and detailed account of traditions and rituals that take place. His writing style makes it so easy to visualize every aspect of the happenings.

What starts out as a usual process for choosing a new pope, soon develops into a plot with numerous complications, unraveling secrets long hidden, and just when you think you have it all figured out, a new twist to the storyline is thrown in. It was interesting to me how much a role politics play in the selection.

The "Conclave" had me turning pages at a new pace. From the novel's beautiful cover to its last page that left me in complete surprise, I never wavered from being deeply involved. It's one of those books that comes along way too seldom.

This amazing book was one of my favorite reads for 2016.

Source: www.ebookstoreal.blogspot.com, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29397486-conclave, www.amazon.com

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