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HALL OF FAMEon 14 March 2005
This book (and the movie which derives from it) is remarkable, all the moreso because of the the amount of inadvertent prophecy that takes place during the course of it. 'Shoes of the Fisherman' is a phrase that is sometimes used to refer to the office of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome; the See of Peter, the Chair of Peter, etc., various other historical and scriptural references are a kind of ecclesial shorthand.
This story takes place during the height of the Cold War, when it was not primarily a two-way confrontation, but rather seemed to threaten to become a three-way contest with the seeming emergence of China as a communist power independent from the Soviet Union. This book sets a looming crisis between the United States and Soviet Union as the primary issue, and concludes with a major conference for peace being called (we do not get to know the outcome of this, however, from the book).
Archbishop Kiril Lakato, longtime political prisoner of the Soviet Union, is released (the exact reasoning for this we are never told) by his long-time captors. He is released to Rome, where he is installed as a cardinal for his faithfulness to the church. In quick succession after this, the pope dies, and an election takes place. Remarkably, Kiril the Russian is elected pope, after giving a moving account of his time in captivity to assembled cardinals weary of the election process, and shortly thereafter commits the church to a risky idea of intervention between the major powers, to the dismay of many of the fellow cardinals, who believe the new pope is following a dangerous path.
Subplots include a very timid (by today's standards), and to a certain extent a bit distracting. The main issue (rather than the plot) is to explore the theological issues behind the papal election and the use of theology and politics in the modern church. Despite being written in the 1960s, the book in fact still rings true with many of the facets of this slow-to-change institution.
What makes this book and its attendant film so remarkable is that it was released a full decade before the election of another pope from the communist block. In the 1960s it was considered very shocking to consider a non-Italian pope, much less one coming from behind the Iron Curtain. This of course had the prophetic ring when Karol (not Kiril) from Poland became pope.
Another prophetic instance is in the ecclesiastical trial of the radical theologian -- during his defense, this theologian even uses the words that later theologians would use, who were silenced by the Roman order, and who finally had to leave the church to remain true to their convictions in some instances.
Just how the author could have foreseen these so far in advance is a mystery.
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on 20 August 2017
Excellent
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on 20 April 2013
As advertised and arrived promptly. The election of the new pope reminded me of this book and I enjoyed reading it again
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on 23 September 2017
No problem.
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on 30 January 2012
I have a friend who's many years older than I am. He's your quintessential 'hard-old-man-with-a-thinly-veiled-soft-heart'. He's fought in wars and been through several marriages, but these days he prefers a smoke and a chat, even about those difficult topics that would end most conversations on the spot. A few months back he recommended I read some Morris West. He spoke respectfully of the author, as if he felt that these books contained insights not lightly bought. Now that I've read Shoes of the Fisherman, I can deliver my own verdict.

This book is meditative, but in a unique way. It has been said that the role of literature is to capture the questions we have, not to provide solutions for them. Read through 'A Passage to India' by E.M. Forster, and you won't find any solutions to the cultural challenges India faced a century ago. But I guarantee you will understand the complexity and depth of the problem. Christian literature (and for that matter Christian music, art, etc.) has in many ways been plagued by the fact that it claims to have the Answer - not just for a particular culture or time, but for all people, for all times. Far too often, this leads to stories with premature happy endings, and puerile answers to problems which deserve far more thought. Has Morris West avoided these problems? To be honest, that will need to be judged individually by every reader. For me, he has done a better job than any other Christian author I have ever read. He gives his characters real histories and real struggles to face. Though God figures as a solution for some of them, the introduction of the spiritual does not bring with it any feelings of unrealism, puerility or wishful thinking. Admittedly, it can feel a bit awkward to our humanistic temperament, but if anything this endears the book to me more. Though he does deign to answer some questions, he leaves most for the reader to chew on.

This is a Christian classic. The plot is slow: beyond the personal stories very little actually happens, but you'll always be happy to keep reading. It need not be said that it is beautifully written, in a contemplative style. It deserves a place beside C.S. Lewis' 'Till We Have Faces' as a classic of christian literature
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on 30 May 2007
This book was written around 1962 and it gives a remarkable insight into the feelings, thoughts, anxieties and prayers of a new pope. If you are looking for an action thriller then move on. This is a philosophical work that puts you inside the mind of the pope. It gave me a new perspective on what happens inside the Vatican. It is a little heavy going at times but it is a powerful piece of writing from its time.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 July 2007
"The Shoes of the Fisherman" is a novel first published in 1963 which centers on the election and early reign of Pope Kiril I, a Russian, recently released from prison, whose secret appointment to the College of Cardinals was revealed by his dying predecessor upon his release from prison. The novel begins with the preparations for the conclave and the mechanism of Kiril's election.

In the course of this novel, author Morris West weaves an intriguing collection of characters and themes though the book and into each others lives, all centering on Pope Kiril. The characters include a German-Jewish, American-Catholic widow trying to find meaning in her life in Rome, an American reporter, an Italian politician, the woman torn between them, a suppressed Jesuit theologian and assorted Curial officials. Summit correspondence channeled through Kiril adds a touch of diplomatic tension to the tale.

The story which each of these characters brings to the novel grasps the attention of the reader One is tempted to try to find recent Popes in the person of Kiril. Is he Paul who started the tradition of Papal travelers? Is he John Paul the Wander, another "Light from the East", whose involvement in international power politics will be studied for years? The reader is well advised to resist the temptation to see history in this novel. The ultimate story is Kiril himself, Kiril the priest-counselor, the priest-confessor, Kiril the pastor, the Vicar of the Prince of Peace, but mostly the soul searching for God's will and reaching within himself for the courage to follow it. Through the book you will wonder about the characters who flow in and out of it. At the end you will focus on Kiril as he fathoms the mysteries of God. This is what you will keep in your mind and ponder in your heart.
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on 19 April 2014
I have loved Morris West books since I first read this book years ago - every single one of them is a work of art in their own way. I want all of these on Kindle, please. They are the sort of books you can read again and again - especially Eminence which is a love story, a story of faith, a story of determination and every other virtue you can imagine told about a man who is so believably human at the same time.
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on 18 May 2015
Powerful writing. Controversial in its day. Some glimpses into the running of the Vatican and its election process. Leaves the reader wondering why all religious leaders don't think and behave in the ways of this, the world's first, Russian Pope. A somewhat prophetic insight into the election and life of the first Polish Pope, John Paul II.
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on 24 June 2015
Great Product and all round service thank you.
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