The most internationally anticipated religious suspense-thriller since Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, WR.PARK’s The Franciscan is now available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. Written 14 years ago, The Franciscan eerily forebodes current events in the Vatican predicting the coming of the current Pope Francis and proves to be a timely novel more than a decade after it was penned. This is the first book in The Franciscan Trilogy.
“The pope is not infallible.” When the newly elected Pope Francis utters this bold and unprecedented statement, he captures the attention of the world’s population. His reforms leave no corner untouched as he strips away the mask so long held before the face of the papacy. Bringing with him and open-minded candor rarely seen by public figures – he’s an inspiration to his followers – and a threat to those who oppose him.
“When I penned this novel about a fictitious Pope Francis fourteen years ago, I never envisioned that a future pope would select the name, Pope Francis I. This novel’s Pope Francis is a bold and courageous pope whose sweeping reforms reversing ancient Vatican edicts place his life in grave danger. The world can only hope and pray that today’s Pope Francis, as bold as he is, will be fruitful in his endeavors and have a lengthy and healthy reign,” said WR.PARK.
A hush fell over the crowd in the square when the pope appeared in the entrance guarded by two huge iron doors. The only sounds were the distant drone of Rome's traffic and the splashing of the square's giant dueling fountains. Pope Francis hesitated, allowing his entourage to catch up, before descending the steps to stand before the seated clergy. Forcing a smile, he stepped forward, blessing those gathered for the ceremony.
On about the tenth step down, the crowd's expression of restraint turned into one of horror and disbelief. Most were too stunned to utter a sound. Screams were trapped in a thousand throats, but all managed to point upward towards the basilica's dome, and behind those slowly walking down the steps. Wooden chairs being tipped and flung aside clattered on the stone laid square, as the assembled clergy leapt to their feet, anticipating the worst.
Confused by the crowd's alarm and unaware of the danger, they turned all too slowly to avoid the coming peril. Kim, who was several steps behind the group, was the first to hear a dull cracking sound. He turned and looked up. The huge concrete crucifix that had rested on the left shoulder of the gigantic statue of Christ, standing at the center of the row of saints, broke loose. As it tumbled, it struck the peak of an architectural structure and burst into sizable chunks, showering down on the pope and his unsuspecting group.
Kim sprang forward, taking several steps at a time, and just as his shoulder was grazed by a large jagged piece, he gave the pope a mighty shove. The force of being struck gave emphasis to the thrust of Kim's hands, and he literally propelled the pope through the air.
Pope Francis somehow managed to land on his hands and knees. Rolling over onto his backside and ignoring the pain of bloodied, skinned hands and knees, he was grateful to see that most of the group was spared injury. Kim was on his feet, briskly rubbing his shoulder. Cardinal Mumbwa was bent over and holding the back of his leg where he took a hit in full fury, but motioned that he was okay, as did Kim. To Kim's left lay Cardinal Buldini. He lay flat on his back, his belly pointing to the heavens, his legs in the direction of the basilica and head towards the square. Blood trickled down his forehead from a deep scalp wound.
Pope Francis gingerly got to his feet, wiped his bloody hands on his sides, and gritted his teeth while he pulled away the torn fabric that was embedded in the flesh of both knees. “Kim, if you're okay, see to Buldini; he's beginning to move, but needs assistance. Put a compress on the gash and take him to the infirmary. And Kim—take good care of him. You understand me?” Quickly surveying the fallen debris before turning his attention to his dumb struck audience, he said, “Thank God. This could have been disastrous.”
Thomas, favoring his right leg, hobbled over to where Buldini sat upright on a step. He held a handkerchief to his head and looked quite shaken. “Kim can care for him. Thomas, I need you here,” ordered the pope. “We'll go forward with the installation proceedings.” The remainder of the group, also shaken but unharmed, were brushing small dust particles from their formal costumes and assuring the pope they were unscathed.
The crowd stood petrified with hands to their mouths. The clergy remained on their feet, chairs scattered about. Everyone anticipated the pope's words as he limped down the stairs towards the throne-style chair that was placed for his ceremonial use. Upon reaching the appointed spot, he took the microphone, looked at those directly before him and said, “Please be seated. This is your finest hour. And may I please be forgiven for sitting—I seem to
have injured both knees.”
The same whispers spread like a wave from person to person as his Holiness sat holding the mike. “Look at his hands and knees.” Twice the mike nearly slipped from his hands smeared with blood, and both bloodied knees were bared for all to see.
He pulled down on the large scooped sleeve of his Franciscan habit to use it as a glove in order to hold the mike in his right hand, and motioned for silence with his left. A collective “Oh!” filled the square when they saw the palm of his raised hand, which looked as though the entire palm had its skin peeled off.
Reacting to the people's obvious concern, he wiped his hand on his lap and then held it up for all to see. “You see, it looks a lot worse than it really is. I'm fine. Really.” Then he looked down and lifted the bloodied and torn skirt of his outfit and remarked with a toothy grin, “But I'm afraid my tailor is going to be extremely upset with me.” The air was filled with good natured laughter.
The smile quickly disappeared and was replaced with a serious expression. “Guests, members of our religious orders, and cardinals-in-waiting. We did not stage this little episode to command your attention. It is, however, an example of a number of similar situations we will now reveal to you. The timing for full disclosure is right, considering the advent of today's reported scandalous and false accusations against the papacy.
“I'm pleased to see the media is out in full force this afternoon. What will be revealed to you for the first time, will be broadcast on the GlobalNet worldwide.” Teams of camera crews and reporters scurried around, jockeying for the best view of the pope, anxiously waiting to report the breaking news live.
A hush came over the crowd as Pope Francis stood to speak. From the grimace on his face, they knew his knees had stiffened and he was in pain. But he continued. “What you have witnessed a few moments ago, was the third such attempt on my life since my inauguration.” A gasp arose from the crowd.
“Yes. A third attempt. The first assassination undertaking came soon after my election to the papacy. Sadly, Cardinal Uden Borne of the Netherlands was mistakenly murdered in my stead. Next, Kim Xinan, a Franciscan friar from China, took a bullet in his chest that was meant for me. And as you just saw, once again, he risked his life and came to my rescue.
“Since we made the decision to follow Vatican II's and III's direction of opening the doors and windows in hopes that fresh air would clear the musty bonds of timeworn tradition, we've been repeatedly attacked. The papal order, especially to those in the Church hierarchy, to ardently follow the spirit of Saint Francis' service to all the sons and daughters of the Creator, I believe, was the catalyst that drove the enemies of Pope Francis to this end.
“In addition to the personal physical attacks, they have now stooped to assaulting me on another level—that of a well-organized and orchestrated international character assassination. I am not the only target of this shameless and unholy effort. They have also assaulted the reputation of my faithful Franciscan brothers and that of the hallowed monastery from which we sprung.”
He turned and laid the hand held mike on the chair's seat and picked up the clip-on, and attached it to the large collar of his habit. Once again he turned to face the audience and cameras. Taking a deep breath, he fell to his wounded knees and stretched his arms upward toward the heavens. His normally handsome and welcoming features were twisted in an expression of suffering.
From the piercing cries of those in the crowd, you knew they, too, inwardly felt the stabbing pain. A small pool of blood became visible at the corners of both knees.
Pope Francis bowed his head. Moments passed agonizingly slow as he prepared himself to set the pain aside. Once that was accomplished, he raised his head and spoke. “My brothers and sisters, I now kneel humbly before you and the world—and before our Father in heaven. And as our Creator is my witness, I say to you simply—there is not an ounce of truth in the vicious lies that are being reported. My Franciscans and I are innocent of the slanderous accusations being leveled. They are, as I have explained, part of a plot to discredit this papacy. Those responsible are the ones who stand to lose the most, financially, if all of our announced innovations would come to fruition.”
He stopped abruptly, lowered his head once again, and took another deep breath. Many of those in the square were now openly weeping at the courage and compassion of the pope. He looked straight at the audience, and continued through gritted teeth.
“I need your help to survive this trial by fire. I need your prayers of support. I need you to believe in me.” His head dropped to his chest, and his body wavered slightly as he attempted to steady himself while his hands gripped his thighs.
Two Swiss Guards dressed in their colorful pantaloons and polished helmets seemed to appear out of nowhere; their capes flowed and their swords clattered as they ran to assist their pope. He tried unsuccessfully to stand on his own. All the strength in his knees had abandoned him. Each guard placed a hand under his arms and sat him on the chair.
Squaring his shoulders, he raised his head and looked at his benefactors. He recognized them both as the two guards that Kim had unceremoniously hoisted up the Tower stairs, and whom he later mildly chastised. “Thank you guys. I owe you one,” he said softly.
The heart wrenching scene that played out before their eyes was far too graphic for many of the faithful and bystanders. Women swooned, and tears flowed freely. Even the most hardy found that holding back the flood was impossible. The sight of the bleeding, shaken and physically weakened man of God, genuinely pleading for their prayers and their trust, was more than their hearts could bear.
An ear-splitting chorus of, “We believe! We Believe!” filled Saint Peters'
Praise for The Franciscan:
New York Times bestselling author James Rollins commented on WR.PARK’s thirteenth novel: “I’ve been a fan of WR.PARK’s work for years.”
“The Franciscan featuring the first Pope Francis is about murder, suicide, extortion, assassins, devilish plots with a narrative with more twists and turns than a ride through purgatory.” – Publisher’s Auxiliary
“Unexpectedly thrust upon the throne of St. Peter by dark forces within the Vatican, this pope is trying to institute a radical agenda of change while contending with assassination attempts and political intrigue… and then things get really exciting.” – The Leaven Catholic Newspaper
“The Franciscan is a fascinating tale and has great general appeal. Readers who like intrigue and mystery in a colorful historical setting will enjoy [WR.PARK’s] effort and will certainly look forward to his subsequent offering.” – The Sun Newspaper
“Every now and then a book I’m asked to read and write about pleasantly surprises me. The Franciscan is a case point. It’s an intriguing read – weaving together two fascinating tales. It kept me interested up to and including the end.” – Northwest Florida Daily News
About the Author:
Author, columnist, teacher, lecturer, past president of three advertising agencies, William R. Park, Sr. is nationally known and respected in the advertising and literary worlds—and a Member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. His past works include: The Talking Stones, Overlay, Fatal Incision, plus ten others, each backed by glowing praise from numerous bestselling authors.
WR.PARK currently resides in the Kansas City area with his wife Genie. To learn more, and read what bestselling authors said about his body of work, visit: http://www.wrparkpublishinggroup.com/
Connect with WR.PARK on Twitter and Goodreads: