Accidental Pope: A Novel


The former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and the bestselling author of The French Connection join forces to write an unforgettable novel about a humble fisherman who is elected pope.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$15.71 price
(Save 25%)$20.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (46) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $6.83   
  • Used (37) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


The former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and the bestselling author of The French Connection join forces to write an unforgettable novel about a humble fisherman who is elected pope.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
". . .looks at the struggle for the successor to John Paul II. To the surprise of all, a former priest, now a Cape Cod fisherman, becomes the pope. I know it sounds weird, but this one will hold you, page to page. . ."—Larry King, USA Today
Larry King
...looks at the struggle for the successor to John Paul II. To the surprise of all, a former priest, now a Cape Cod fisherman, becomes the pope. I know it sounds weird, but this one will hold you, page to page...
—(USA Today)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Writing in uninspired "what-if" mode, ex-U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Flynn and Moore (The French Connection) jam yet another tale of Triumphant Good through the eye of the millennial needle. Following the death of Pope John Paul II, the College of Cardinals convenes to elect a new pope. While the whole world watches, an Irish cardinal named Comiskey tells a moving story about his seminary friend Bill Kelly, an ex-priest-turned-fisherman, who once saved a group of fellow seminarians from drowning. Unable to reach a consensus after seven days, the cardinals end up casting their votes for the able fisherman. Bill himself has a vision that foretells his good fortune, and although he is a widower with four children, he takes up the mandate and the name of Peter, and heads for Rome with his family. Once established, Pope Peter II/Bill sets out to make everyone happy: the Jews, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Northern Irish Protestants, even homosexuals. Although some interesting modern Church issues are touched on frankly here, such as the controversial deeds of Pius XII and the Catholic and Orthodox conflicts of interest in Africa, theocratic tub-thumping and leaden dialogue sink a feel-good story that's hard to feel good about. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312282981
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 715,342
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Flynn was the popular mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993, and served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican from 1993-1997. He is currently president of the Catholic Alliance and host of a daily national television program. Flynn lives in Boston with his wife and six children.

Robin Moore is the bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The French Connection and The Green Berets. He lives with his wife in Massachusetts.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Conclave

At the turn of the third millennium, in the year 2000, the college of cardinals in Rome, following the funeral of the pope and Novemdiales, in this case a fifteen-day period of mourning and reflection, convened to elect a new pope. The soft drizzle of rain settling on the cobblestones in front of the magnificent, recently renovated Basilica of St. Peter's reflected the somber mood that had fallen over the city, and indeed much of the world, with the passing of this pope. Despite the weather, eighty thousand people had gathered in front of St. Peter's for the opening of the conclave, literally meaning, "locked in with a key." The crowd had been growing since dawn to wish the princes of the Church Godspeed, to pray with them, and to witness the spectacle of the cardinals, each one in his splendid robes, arriving one by one for the serious business of electing the next successor to St. Peter.

Seated with the diplomatic corps inside the basilica, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance under the dome of Michelangelo, Edward Kirby, United States ambassador to the Vatican, took in the colorful proceedings, his wife, Catherine, at his side. Except for daughter Maureen, the Kirby children were all back at school or at their jobs in their father's native Chicago, where he had been mayor until the president had offered him this irresistibly prestigious diplomatic post.

When the news of the pope's death had reached the State Department, they had pushed Kirby to give them the inside track on just who the next pope would be. The question was impossible to answer. When pressed, Ed laughinglyreplied, "Look, my father's not mayor here. I can't rig the election and guarantee who the winner will be." It was an obvious reference to the old "ward boss" Chicago days of big-city politics where "vote early and often" was the common greeting of politicians and their constituencies.

Kirby was a zealous jogger whose clear eyes, lean face, trim stature, and universally respected work ethic belied an undeserved reputation in the hostile Chicago press for excessive consumption of wine and beer. He had been devastated at the death of Pope John Paul II, whom he profoundly admired. His relationship with the pope had been close and personal. He was cordial with every one of the cardinals likely to be Supreme Pontiff. With the possible exception of two or three, none of them inspired him to want to stay on in his Vatican assignment. But Kirby recognized himself as the man most qualified to conduct business between the world's most powerful political figure, the president of the United States, and the planet's most important moral voice, the pope.

When he was mayor of Chicago, he was regarded as the champion of working families, and also a fighter for economic justice and human rights in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and, for that matter, many areas of the world. He was an active member of Opus Dei (God's Work), a disciplined, conservative, and often mysterious organization within the Catholic Church, of which the deceased pontiff had been a staunch supporter. Nevertheless, it was an organization the U.S. government considered at the very least secretive, at the worst sinister. Ed had known Pope John Paul II for several years before he ascended to the pontificate. While mayor, Ed was a strong supporter of Solidarity, the outlawed labor movement in Poland, and an ardent opponent of Soviet Communism. Born in a mostly Polish neighborhood of his city, Ed knew Polish culture and traditions well. In this same neighborhood he had first met the thenÐarchbishop of Krakow, later Pope John Paul II, at the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Ed Kirby had been termed the "Lech Walesa of American politics" by respected newspaper columnist Peter Lucas because of his populist, pro-working-family image. When Kirby's oldest son had become clinically depressed, shortly after his father's appointment to the Vatican, it was the Holy Father who privately offered support, prayers, and comfort. He even offered to help pay the family's astronomical hospital bills. Kathy Kirby told a close friend, "If it weren't for the kind words of support from the Holy Father, Ed probably would have gone into depression himself." At the onset of his son's illness, he had been under great pressure because of unfounded accusations of campaign irregularities, assertions leaked for political reasons to ever-hostile reporters by reckless state prosecutors.

With all these considerations and memories, the present ambassador could not see himself, nor did he want to become, attached to yet another pontiff. To the astonishment of the spectators, as the princes of the Church left St. Peter's Basilica where they had celebrated Mass and were on their way to the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, the rain stopped and the Italian sun came out. The crowd and diplomatic guests smiled and nodded at this sign from above that would ensure God's blessing.

Brian Cardinal Comiskey of Ireland, a relatively young prince of the Church at age fifty-five, tall, athletic, with reddish hair and a youthful face, was one of several members of the college of cardinals publicly mentioned to succeed to the throne of St. Peter. He had been elevated to primate of all Ireland and archbishop of Armagh by the late pope because of his achievements and courage in helping bring a degree of moderation to Ireland's troubles between Catholics and Protestants. He was an early advocate of the Good Friday Peace Accord and spoke out often for the power-sharing government of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Ambassador Kirby, watching the parade of cardinals in their red robes and sashes and tri-cornered red birettas on their heads, resolved that should Brian (against all odds) be chosen, he would consider asking the president to reappoint him to the Vatican post. After the presidential election the White House, realizing that it was weakest with the Catholic vote, had sent Kirby to the Vatican. Ed caught Brian's eye as the cardinal walked by, and the two men smiled and nodded familiarly to each other.

The most logical choice of successor to St. Peter's throne, however, was the carmelengo, or chairman of the conclave, Eugenio Cardinal Robitelli, Vatican secretary of state under the deceased pope. Scion of a noble Roman family, the tall and ascetic cardinal with flashing black eyes emanated the aura of a medieval city-state prince and reminded some historians of the noble Borgias. Augustine Cardinal Motupu, the most prominent African serving the Church throughout much of the "Dark Continent," represented the liberal wing of the college of cardinals; some even called it the left wing. Motupu was a leader respected throughout Africa and by people of all persuasions. His forceful personality, wide smile, and inclination to question many of the established traditions of Rome with apparent impunity promoted wide speculation by the media, as well as within the Church hierarchy, that many traditional Church leaders had been fearful of him. It seemed certain that the six black cardinals would back his election to the papacy, and many European cardinals spoke highly of him because of his evident sincerity. Ed Kirby's eyes narrowed as the short and rotund Pasquale Cardinal Monassari passed by, smiling and in animated chatter with the others. Known as "Patsy" to his intimates among a following of New York, Chicago, and Roman penumbral financial speculators, Monassari enjoyed powerful support as a result of the control he exercised over the Institute for Religious Works, better known as the Vatican Bank.

Patsy had been close to a previous custodian of the financial institution, suspected by Scotland Yard agents of what appeared to be a friendly association with questionable business characters connected to smuggling cocaine into London via Sicily and North Africa. These two Italian business confederates were later found to be using counterfeit bonds engraved by international Mafia craftsmen to secure a large loan from the bank.

From his Chicago contacts and the persistent street rumors, Ed Kirby believed it was only a matter of time before Cardinal Monassari and his underworld acquaintances would be implicated in another such scam.

Ladbrokes, the London betting consortium, gave the highest chances for election to Robitelli. Emma, the affable owner and waitress at the small restaurant Osteria dell'Aquila, in Trastevere, also predicted that based on what she heard in her popular restaurant, which was frequented by many Vatican officials, Robitelli was a sure winner. Vatican observers often said, "If you want to know what's going on in the Church, talk to Emma. She knows everything."

The unique circumstance of this conclave, made much of by the record number of journalists covering the Vatican, was a single statistic no one had overlooked. There were 120 members of the college of cardinals under eighty years of age and thus eligible to vote, the precise number stipulated by Pope Paul VI in his 1975 Romano Pontifici Eligendo (The Election of the Roman Pontiff). Expert observers sensed a quick decision.

The one voice most popular on the TV shows was that of Father Ron Farrell. An American, he was a sociologist by bent and skilled at getting to the bottom-line feelings of ordinary people. He was a frequent self-appointed Vatican spokesperson and envoy to the four corners of the world. Farrell was good copy; he could discuss people, analyze situations, and describe the religious controversies behind them, and, in the words of a famous baseball announcer, "He comes across as exciting and immediate as the seventh game of the World Series."

"History is being made! A moral battle for the soul of the Catholic Church is going on behind these walls," Farrell announced to the TV audience, pointing to the Vatican, where as he put it, "the world's most exclusive men's clubÑthe college of cardinalsÑis meeting behind locked doors within the Sistine Chapel. Soon the princes of the Church will elect the two hundred and sixty-fifth pontiff in the Catholic Church's two-thousand-year history, after Jesus Christ himself named St. Peter to be his vicar, his rock on earth, and commanded him to build his Church." Farrell knew what the media wanted to hear, and he was always ready to accommodate, particularly since the exposure shamelessly promoted his racy, Church-based novels.

Perhaps it was unfair for a member of the curia, the Vatican bureaucracy, to call him a shameful self-promoter. It was obvious that many envied his friendship with the press. "He's good copy and gives us red meat," said a CNN spokesperson.

Perhaps the only absolute fact to emerge out of the guessing game played by the media and churchmen alike was the conclusion drawn by the highly respected CBS anchorman Don Mather. After seemingly endless interviews and discussions he concluded, "We really have no idea what will happen and what surprises may be sprung at that conclave, once the doors are closed and those men of God take on the awesome responsibility of electing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. As for front runners, you go in a front runner, you come out a cardinal."

History would prove him more right than he could ever have imagined.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2005

    Powerful and Emotional

    This was just a quick pick-up book, and I could not stop reading it. Every Catholic should read it, and further, the leaders of the Catholic Church should learn from it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    Why Did I Waste My Time!

    I received this book as a gift, so I felt compelled to read it----only wish that I had returned it for something worthwhile. The plot had some promise but never developed, and neither did the characters. There was too much detail but very little description used to flesh out the background...I really didn't care what street the restaurants and clubs were on----some pages read like pages from a tour book. Most of the dialogue was on the elementary school level----the 'she said' and 'he said' kind. I can truly say that it was one of the worse books that I have ever read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2001

    Two Thumbs Up!

    This certainly had me captivated! I walked through the house reading, woke up reaching for the book the next morning and finished it in record time. It's fast-paced, laugh-out-loud funny, unbelievable, eye-opening, and thought-provoking! How many of us, after reading this book, will look at the conclave in the same way again?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2000

    Mayor Flynn at his best!!!

    Incredble book, a friend of mine got it and let me read it when he was done. I was up al night burning the midnight oil. A stirring account that asks the inevitable what-if's. The story of priest to fisherman to Vicar of christ, is one of the best rqags to riches story i have ever seen. Very colorful characters that jump off the page as well. I recommend you give it a shot!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2000

    Sensational Reading!!

    A truly great book. I enjoyed each and every chapter to the fullest. Lots of food for thought is generated in this novel. Raymond Flynn and Robin Moore demonstrated lots of talent. I recommend this book to all that love to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)