Published in 1983, this work was a blockbuster in the mid 1980s. Not only is the book an absorbing read but the authors were correct and prescient in their expectations & predictions of the momentous pontificate of John Paul II. The significance of this pope who, together with Thatcher & Reagan, was responsible for the collapse of communism, is brilliantly explored in The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister by John O'Sullivan.
The introduction provides a brief background on the history of the Papacy which is followed by a short chapter on the terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, the Grey Wolves terror organization and the political violence in Turkey in the late 1970s.
Part I assesses the person and the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, and his sickness & death in 1978. He was the first Bishop of Rome to appoint many cardinals from outside Italy & Europe.
Part II includes a discussion of the fascinating processes & procedures of electing a pope. John Paul I was elected and lived for only 33 days. Then Karol Wojtyla was elected, the first Polish Pope, against the background of the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Block. The rise of the Solidarity trade union in Poland was the first sign of the impending implosion of the evil empire.
Part III reveals the involvement of the KGB and the Bulgarian Secret Service in the assassination attempt. But John Paul II survived, made a quick recovery and was instrumental in bringing freedom to his native Poland and to the whole of Eastern Europe.
The book contains a note on sources, notes on the text arranged by chapter, a bibliography and index.
Pontiff remains a most enjoyable read and illuminating work with its insights into the working of the Vatican, the conclaves of cardinals electing the pope, the personalities of the time like the liberal theologian Hans Küng and the reactionary Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. It is peopled by a colorful array of interesting characters like the influential figures of the time in the Roman Catholic Church, including cardinals Casaroli, Koenig, Cody, Felici and Bishop Marcinkus.
Of equal importance, it provides relevant information on the terrorist networks of the time and the co-operation between the KGB & Islamist terrorists. This book is highly recommended for the skillful way in which it reveals the history of the time, the developments that would lead to the implosion of the communist empire in the early 1990s, and the character of the greatest pope of the 20th century.