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The story opens with a disturbing prophecy of a bishop being killed by classic Mafiosi. The funeral of Pope Paul VI draws cardinals from around the world as speculation and conspiracies develop over who will be elected the next Pope. The fourth ballot confirms the reluctant Cardinal Luciani of Venice as Pope John Paul I. As he accepts his election, he says ominously, “God forgive you for what you have done”. In a flashback, Father Magee a secretary to the Pope is initiated in to the forbidden P2 Masonic Lodge to further his career. After the investiture of JPI, Nikodim, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, dies from a suspected poisoning. Vatican security warns JPI that the poisoning may have been meant for him.


In a flashback, Father Magee is promoted to the 2nd Masonic degree. In the present, he is enlisted by the Grandmaster Gelli to spy on JPI. Meanwhile, JPI’s first crisis is how to resolve Cardinal Cody of Chicago’s extravagant and licentious lifestyle with his mistress, Helen Weston. Tens of millions of dollars are missing from his diocese. As Cody refuses to resign, it is left to Grandmaster Gelli to assist the Church. JPI’s second crisis is with the Italian and American authorities who claim that the Vatican Bank is involved in money laundering and tax evasion. JPI feels trapped in “a temple full of money changers” as the authorities threaten to freeze the assets of the Vatican Bank. In a flashback, Luciani and Lorenzi meet Sister Lucia, the surviving witness to the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. Her prophecy regarding Luciani is further developed with, “Christ’s crown and Christ’s days”. Father Magee is elevated to 3rd degree Master Mason.


JPI’s third crisis occurs when he discovers that the list of P2 lodge members includes senior Vatican officials. After this discovery, JPI relieves Villot, Marcinkus and other high ranking prelates of their posts in the Vatican.  As a result, Gelli, in Argentina, orders the Pope to be killed. Father Magee murders JPI to save his career and hidden gay lifestyle.  Villot engineers the cover-up of the murder.  Later, Villot finds Magee cowering in a chapel and informs him that he has to leave Rome for a while.   A funeral Mass is held where Villot recalls the ominous words of Luciani: ”God forgive you for what you have done”. A new Pope is elected.