Council is the riveting story of the first American-born pope, who sends shock waves throughout the Catholic Church when he summons a new gathering of the world’s bishops. His mission: to bring long-needed changes to the life of the Church he loves.
Council is the passionate story of the men and women who are drawn into the maelstrom of faith and politics, passion and power: the pope who faces the most difficult crisis of his life . . . a powerful Irish cardinal who bitterly opposes the pope’s call for a council . . . a South American businessman who once served in a death squad . . . an American priest who is torn from his troubled parish to play a role in the pope’s dream . . . all are front-line soldiers in the battle of good against evil.
Council is an intimate look at the daily life and the crushing responsibilities of the papacy, as conflict and conspiracies whirl around the controversial figure of Celestine VI. Council is a story you’ll never forget.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Greg Tobin is an award-winning Catholic author of popular fiction and non-fiction. A former editor and senior publishing executive, he is currently a fulltime writer. He is a graduate of Yale University. Tobin lives with his wife and sons in South Orange, New Jersey.
Jersey City, New Jersey, September 11, 2001
The archbishop, a lean, almost ascetic figure, tall with broad shoulders that filled out the flowing emerald-colored Chasuble, bowed deeply toward the altar in a gesture of obeisance and reverence as he deliberately pronounced the words that sacred Tradition and Scripture attribute of Jesus Himself: "This is my body." He paused for a heartbeat, then continued: "Which will be given up for you." Timothy John Cardinal Mulrennan lifted the host, a thin water of unleavened bread that had, with his words, become the body of his Lord Jesus Christ. He held the host aloft before the gathered attendees of this special, early-morning mass, then replaced it in the plate and genuflected before it.
Next, he took the chalice of wine intermingled with a drop of water and pronounced the similar words of consecration in a clear, measured cadence: "This is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven." Again, he breathed silently before he added in a near-whisper the admonition that he brought Christians together for two thousand years: "Do this in memory of me" The gleaming upraised vessel reflected the blameless sunlight that shot through the windows of the chapel, in St. Peter Hall on the college campus, which were open to a bright, cloudless new day.
Cardinal Mulrennan had returned from Rome less than twenty-four hours earlier, ending a brief vacation trip combined with a visit to the Holy Father. He had been emotionally shaken by the sight of the old man whom he so loved--a bent and shrunken shell ravaged by age, disease, and the woes of the world, and still suffering the aftereffects of an assassination attempt twenty years before. Yet, never had he known the people to be so mentally acute, attuned to the spiritual currents across the globe, even prophetic in his words and his attitude. The pontiff--the holiest man Tim Mulrennan had ever known--had sadly predicted a renewal of evil and darkness in the earthly kingdom, Which very soon he would depart....Difficult to believe on such a warm and glorious September day that war, pestilence, and famine might descend upon the people of God. Mulrennan smiled to himself as he continued the sacramental rite of the Eucharist, through the Lord's Prayer and the Agnus Dei and as he served Holy Communion to the community which had gathered for the planned events of the day--another busy, overcrowded schedule for the cardinal who was responsible for the care of one and a half million souls in the Archdiocese of Newark, within hollering distance of Manhattan island.
God is in charge, his spiritual director, an old priest colleague and mentor, Father Joel, always reminded him. Let God do His job and try your very best to do yours. Simple as that. Though Timothy Mulrennan's job was quite demanding and complex and highly public; still, he stove for simplicity and focus amid the heavy challenges and responsibilities that he faced nearly every day.
Like the pope himself, Cardinal Mulrennan was a successor of the apostles, a member of the worldwide college of bishops which is charged to teach the ancient faith and to tend the far-flung flock of Christ. Yet he also believed that the Bishop of Rome was indeed first among equals, a direct inheritor of the ministry of St. Peter and the living representative of Christ on earth, His vicar and chief servant. Not that he spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of the apostolic succession...he was more often too busy with the day-to-day affairs of his diocese to soar into such elevated theological realms. In front of him each day was laid a crushingly packed agenda of activities--masses, talks, meetings, charity dinners, parish visits--that would cow any corporate CEO. But he liked it; in fact, he thrived on it.
The trip from which he had just returned, which had included a several-day holiday in Ireland, his ancestral homeland, was the very first lengthy break he had taken since his appointment to this archiepiscopal see. Occasionally he had taken a two-day "weekend" (in the middle of the week, of course) or squeezed in a round of golf on the Essex County public course, or a few days on retreat, which was always more work than relaxation. So he actually felt refreshed and ready to tackle this first full working day, feeling blessed that he was in a job assignment that he loved. He was grateful that his five years in a curial position in Rome had ended with his appointment to the archdiocese where he had been born, raised, and educated.
In fact, in his homily morning, after the Gospel reading from Luke, in which Jesus calls the apostles to join Him in His ministry, Mulrennan spoke to the forty or so professors, deans, and administrators from St. Peter's College about their connection to the apostles and their role in proclaiming the Good News, and he urged them, too, to be grateful for such a vacation. This mass was the archbishop was a part of their day-long convocation to mark the beginning of a new academic year.
"Push your boats out farther into the waters and let down your nets," he preached, echoing the words of the evangelist. "The fish you will catch, even after you think there are none left to harvest, will astound you--even as Simon Peter and his men were astounded. Let yourselves be surprised by God and his Power to work miracles in your lives and the lives of those you touch through your profession." If every Christian, and every Catholic, were to heed the simple instructions of Jesus, how the world would be transformed and the light shine through any darkness or disaster that might befall God's people. "They left everything behind to follow Him--all the way to His death and resurrection and beyond, to the end of their days. And today He calls us, his latter-day followers, to do the same. His message is changeless, asking us to change and become fully whom the Father created us to be."
When the liturgy ended, at about 8:20 A.M., the archbishop stayed for a quick cup of coffee with the college president, a Jesus priest friend of many years, along with the other academicians and religious who pressed him for details of his ad limina Vatican visit and asked after the health of the Holy Father.
"As you know, he is planning a trip to Armenia, the oldest Christian nation in the world," Cardinal Mulrennan said, "and is still determined to travel to Iraq some day. And I certainly would not bet against him--based on strength of will alone. His physical body is failing him, certainly as it does everyone, but his mind and spirit are stronger than I have ever seen, and I have known him for almost forty years." He had first met the future pope at the Second Vatican Council when the Pole was a young bishop--had observed the philosopher-pastor's fertile, restless mind at work even then. "I pray for him everyday. And he pray for us."
By eight forty-five he had extracted himself--gracefully, he hoped--from the gathering and made his way to the car in the crowded college parking lot. A young priest named David Gallagher awaited him and would drive him back to Newark. Mulrennan got into the front seat instead of the back, pulled on his seat belt, and turned on the radio as the driver pulled onto the narrow street. He set back and closed his eyes. A news bulletin caused him to jerk upright and turn up the volume: An airplane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. "David, let's drive toward Liberty state Park, quickly." He caught intermittent glimpses of the towers across the river and saw for himself that smoke was rising from one of them.
Less than ten minutes later, as they headed directly for the park on the Turnpike extension, he witnessed the swift, eerie approach of another airplane and a second heart-sickening explosion, and heard the echoing boom: Both towers were now on fire. "Good God," he muttered. "God, no, no, no," He wanted to bury his face in his hands, but he could not look away from the horror. Father Gallagher, a thirty-year-old who had been ordained less than four months before, drove on until he got to the park, pulled into the visitors' lot. Timothy Mulrennan bolted from the car and ran across the grass and pavement to the water's edge, unable to comprehend the scene he was witnessing.
Irresistibly, his heart was drawn to the sight, though his thoughts were racing in every direction, tumbling through his brain. What was happening? Instinctively he knew it had to be a terrorist action. But how could something like that succeed? Weren't there security measures to protect our domestic airspace from such attacks?
The sky remained oddly, defiantly brilliant, the air perfect --but for the inky columns of smoke from the giant towers that rose and merged into one evil black cloud.
He and Father Gallagher then sped up to the pier where commuter ferries routinely shuttled back and forth across the water throughout the day. There were a few stunned commuters present and--significantly--a group of Jersey City firefighters loaded down with their equipment, waiting for the next outbound boat, which approached rapidly. One of them called out to Mulrennan: "It's the archbishop! Over here, Father!" With his distinctive urban Jersey accent he pronounced it "fawdder".
Tim jogged over to them, joined them on the deck of the ferry, along with some cops, nurses, and emergency medical workers--about three dozen in all. The ferry captain allowed the few civilians who wanted to make the trip to board, then pulled away from the pier. The waters were calm, clean, reflecting the bright blue day, but as they approached Lower Manhattan the ugliness of the destruction, the debris from the initial twin impact still floated on and above the harbor. The burning towers loomed. Tim Mulrennan looked away for a moment, to the south, to the Statue of Liberty which stood unviolated but a sadly silent witness to the event. She provided no answers. The radio blared blared news reports but provided no information beyond What they could see with their own eyes: a terror attack, a horror that only grew larger as they moved ever closer. As the boat approached the New York side, the archbishop called the men and women together for a prayer. He had no idea what lay ahead for them when they arrived at their destination. He knew that they would plunge immediately into the burgeoning chaos and put their professional skills to saving lives, as many and as swiftly as possible. God be with them....
"God help us in this hour of difficulty and danger. Please be with those who have been injured and killed in this violation of our homeland. Please give strength to your servants who seek to help others in this terrible hour. We ask in the name of Your Son, the Prince of Peace, and the Holy Spirit, with the Blessed Mother, for your love and support in these efforts. Amen". He blessed the bowed heads with the sign of the cross. The men and women then lifted their faces grimly and turned toward the looming, threatening cityscape. One of the firefighters came to Tim and said, "My brother is a Port Authority cop. He works in there. I spoke to him last night. He and his wife have three boys".
Tim's mind reeled: How many thousands of people were in those buildings, and below ground and on the street, on the trains that fed into the World Trade Center underground? Tens if not hundreds of thousands of souls flowed into the area for work and tourist visits every single day. Now, many were trapped, many had probably been killed. What lay ahead in the next hour? What could he do? He looked around for Gallagher; he had lost track of the young priest. There he was, standing as still as a rock at the forward rail of the ferry, watching.
Then, movement from above, a rumbling that Mulrennan felt in his bones. He looked up as the ferry closed the last hundred yards to the slip. One of the towers splintered near the top and collapsed upon itself. At first slowly, then with increasing velocity, the structure disappeared in a sideways explosion of smoke and debris, falling almost gracefully to the earth. A bloody gray smudge against the sky was all that remained beside the still-erect sister tower, which continued to burn. He looked at his watch: ten A.M.
The ferry finally docked, after an agonizing ten or fifteen more minutes, and the cardinal from New Jersey stood behind the rescue workers, allowed them to debark first and dash directly toward the disaster, followed by the handful of commuters who seemed stunned, scared, uncertain. where to go or what to do. A few minutes later, Mulrennan and Gallagher reached the street off the pier and stood there trying to orient themselves when it happened again: The second building, the one with the distinctive three hundred sixty-foot television mast atop, the first to be hit, fell. Gasps and screams from the people in the street.
The earth, this seemingly impregnable island of granite, shifted and vibrated beneath his feet as the giant structure shuddered in its death throes.
"Oh, dear Christ!" he cried, uncomprehending, like a child.
* * *
"The world has been changed, forever--by the power of evil. Let us, then, change the world, with God's help--by the power of good". For the second time in twelve hours he preached a homily, this one unanticipated, and this time in the familiar cathedral basilica that was his home church. Sacred Heart Cathedral in the heart of the city of Newark stood majestically on a hill amid the lush greenery of a park and the poignantly stark reality of urban decay, in a "bad part of town," to those who did not live there. From the chancery one could see the Manhattan skyline clearly, now palled by a sinister curtain of smoke and ash illumined by searchlights and bereft of its mighty towers of commerce. The cardinal had opened the doors of the church, which had been designated a basilica by Pope John Paul II upon his visit there in 1995, and hundreds of Catholics and other locals had streamed in for a special prayer service on this day of horror. The people had prayed the rosary with their shepherd and now leaned forward in the pews to hear his words.
"So many in our local community have died, including firemen, policemen, rescue workers, Port Authority officials, and civilians who worked in he buildings that have collapsed. How many? Perhaps thousands of souls have perished. Others are lost, and we don't know whether they're dead or alive. Will they ever be found? Will their families ever know what has happened to them? How can we cope with the terrible grief and anger that we feel tonight? What will tomorrow bring? So many questions, and precious few comprehensible, acceptable answers. What then, are we to do?
"First, my dear friends, we must pray. We must lift up our dead and lost brothers and sisters into God's waiting arms. We must ask our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints to intercede, as the holy messengers they are, to carry the souls of our loved ones to the eternal rest that is the Father. We say very directly through our prayers: Receive them, Lord, here they are, lord, those who themselves passed through the horror as we here did not. And help us to find survivors who may be buried, clinging to life--if it be Your will".
His own lungs still burn...
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Book Description Forge Books, 2003. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110812579224
Book Description Forge Books, 2003. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0812579224
Book Description Forge Books. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0812579224 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1334283