DEATH OF THE POPE

©2004, by KathyG.

What would Tess, Monica, Andrew, and Gloria do, if they found themselves during the end-times scenario prophesied in the Bible, prior to Jesus' coming? What kinds of assignments would they receive? How would they handle their assignments? This alternate-universe series is my attempt to answer that question, to surmise how the angels would handle the events of the Rapture and the Tribulation.

The first story in this ongoing series was written by Robin Day and myself. The rest, I am writing on my own.

In story #7 of my end-times series, it is near the Tribulation's midpoint, and the Revelation prophecies regarding the beast and the harlot are about to be fulfilled. The leader of the new world religion-the pope-is marked for death, and his religious empire will be destroyed. Can angels get through to him and his orphaned nephew before it's too late?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: As of April 19, 2005, the Catholic Church has a new pope. By an eerie coincidence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has opted to call himself the same name I gave my fictional apostate pope in this story that was written in 2004-Pope Benedict XVI.

The differences between the real-life newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI and the fictional Pope Benedict XVI of my story are, thankfully, huge. For starters, the real-life Pope Benedict is a German and the fictional Pope Benedict in my story is an Italian. The real-life Pope Benedict appears to be a conservative Catholic; the fictional Pope Benedict in "Death of the Pope" is a New Age apostate. What kind of pope the real-life Pope Benedict XVI will turn out to be, only time will tell-if his history is any consideration, he will chart a conservative course for the Catholic church as Pope John Paul II did. In the meantime, we can only watch and see. K.G.

PROLOGUE

The pope sat perched at his mahogany bedroom desk, scanning some reports he'd received via his fax machine that day. Behind him, beams of sunlight poured through the window, illuminating his desk and everything on it. As he read the reports, a mirthless smile spread across his face.

"Hundreds of—of Christians—" After spitting out the word, he pressed his lips into a tight line, taking a deep breath. "-are dead in California alone. Good." He hurled the sheaf of papers down, then leaned back in his unyielding chair. "How dare people turn to that mythical Jesus and spread strife when they could be enjoying the new religion and living in peace and tolerance?! You'd think that after three-and-a-half years, they would have learned by now!"

Pausing to light a cigarette, he raised it to his lips; taking a long puff, he blew out a cloud of smoke. Shaking his head, he rose to his feet and shoved the chair under the desk. "It would be so much easier to stamp that movement out if world power was mine, not Puccini's. I've just got to gain it, somehow."

Giovanni Angelico had become Pope Benedict XVI, replacing the late Pope John Paul II, not long before the worldwide disappearances almost 3-and-a-half years before. Unlike his predecessor, who had been a conservative Catholic, Benedict had always been a liberal apostate and heavily into the occult. In the Rapture's aftermath, following the disappearance of all true Christians from the Catholic and Protestant churches, he had unified all world religions into one, and made New Age occultism its foundation.

He had moved his headquarters to Babylon, in Iraq, over a year earlier. Now 55, his dark-brown hair had streaks of gray. Glancing at his cigarette, he narrowed his brown eyes as he thought about his aspirations. He then rose to his feet and approached the window.

For a long moment, as he leaned his face against the windowpane's cool surface, he stared down at the courtyard, his cigarette dangling in his fingertips. A snow-white dove flew past the window, softly cooing; he paid it no attention. It disappeared over the stone wall dividing his palace from the sandy-brown Iraqi desert. Suddenly, the pope beamed.

"I know—I'll get the leaders of the European Union to help me!" He chuckled. "They're all beholden to me, after all, especially Puccini—after all, I've helped him gain and keep power. They'll transfer their allegiance to me if I convince them it's in their own best interests. But how do I get hold of them?"

He looked at the calendar across the room. Slowly approaching it, his shoes making soft thuds in the thick carpet, he scanned his scribbled lists of appointments and scheduled events. "I see one week that's not filled in," he muttered. "Perhaps I can use that to my advantage." He nodded. "I'll hold a celebration. Right here. In honor of the new world religion. All the leaders of the European Union are faithful followers, so they will come, and they will agree with my plans when I share them."

Returning to his quarters, he entered his private study; there, he rang a buzzer underneath his desk. A moment later, his valet entered the room. "Send me my private secretary," he ordered.

Nodding acquiescence, the valet squirmed, an uneasy expression etching his face. "What is it?" the pope snapped.

"Your pardon, Your Holiness, but I've just been approached by another servant." The valet shifted his weight from one foot to another. "It seems the other servant smelled a peculiar sweetish scent in your nephew's bedroom this morning."

The pope clenched his fists, his face turning beet-red. "So—he's at it again," he muttered. "He's been giving me trouble ever since I moved us to Babylon." He marched toward the valet, who took a step backward, raising his hands in front of him. "Tell Benito I want to see him in my office—now!"

Nodding, the valet left. Pursing his lips for the second time, the pope left his study, slamming the door behind him.

Unknown to him, four angels leaned against the wall opposite from the door. Since they were invisible to human eyes, they cast no shadow. "Giovanni Angelica," the heavy-set supervisor angel with the chocolate-brown skin said. "Otherwise known as Pope Benedict XVI. He was elected pope when Pope John Paul II died." She clasped her hands in front of her waist.

The slender angel with luxurious brown hair, Monica, nodded agreement. Her ruby earrings swung sideways as she glanced from angel to angel. "And he's put all the world's religions together, to create one worldwide religion. One that's based on what used to be called the New Age movement." Sadness creased her forehead.

Andrew shook his head, his own eyes equally sorrowful. He gazed at the supervisor angel for a long moment. "You know, Tess, I have taken Home countless Tribulation believers who have been martyred by the new pope's henchmen for not following the new religion. Pope Benedict has sought to enforce his religion by executing everyone who refuses to follow it. And now..." He paused to smooth back his sandy-brown hair.

"And now, it's about to come full circle for him," Tess finished for the angel of death. "He's about to be executed himself—by the leaders of the European Union—and his religion will be disbanded."

Gloria shook her head. "Is there no way to prevent that?" She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose.

"No, Angel Girl. What the Father has decreed, we cannot alter." Tess nodded toward the door. "But we can act before the pope's actions sent him to Hell and cause the untimely death of one who's very dear to him."

"Who is that?" Gloria tilted her head.

"Come with me, and I'll show you." Tess and the other three angels disappeared.

In the pope's formal office, Pope Benedict shouted at a 17-year-old boy. "Don't lie to me!" he scolded. "One of the servants smelled a sickening sweet scent in your room. That can mean only thing—you've been smoking marijuana again!" He banged his desk so hard, his ashtray clattered.

Straightening his back, the boy folded his arms across his chest and glared at his uncle. His black hair hung askew over his forehead; he reached up to brush it out of his eyes. Several pimples dotted his olive-skin face. "What if I am, Uncle Giovanni?" he asked. "What's it hurting if I do?"

Pope Benedict shook his head. "What is it hurting?" he repeated, pain creeping into his voice. "It's hurting me, nephew!" He slowly approached the boy, who, slouching his shoulders, looked down at the floor. "You are my nephew, Benito, and I am responsible for you. I don't want to see you destroying yourself. And that weed will destroy you, if you don't stop smoking it. I mean it, nephew, it will!"

He grasped Benito's shoulders. "I am about to arrange a celebration here in Babylon, and I want you on your best behavior while they're here. And that means no smoking marijuana!" A severe expression etched his face. "You will be punished if you're caught smoking it again. You may go."

As the boy trudged out of the office, shoulders slumped, Tess shook her head in disapproval. "The boy's taken up smoking marijuana to try to rid himself of the turmoil in his heart." She sighed. "He never wanted to move to Iraq, to begin with—he hates it here. And his efforts to find peace and meaning through the new world religion have failed him miserably. Now he's trying to drown his pain through drug abuse, and that's going to fail him, too."

Shock etched Monica's face. "Tess, are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Tess nodded. "I am, indeed, Miss Wings. Giovanna Angelica's life is not the only one at stake." She nodded toward the door. "Unless we can get through to the boy's uncle before he dies, Benito Garibaldi will die, too. And both uncle and nephew will end up in Hell."

Inserting his hands into his pants pockets, Andrew nodded agreement. "We've got our work cut out for us, reaching them both." He smiled wryly. "In a way, I have the easiest job—I only have to take the pope Home."

"Yes," Tess agreed. "And as we have only a short time to get ready, we must return to Heaven and get our orders from the Father. This is such an important assignment that He wants to give us our instructions in person, so let's go."

The four angels disappeared from the pope's office. The pope sank into the nearest upholstered armchair, pain welling up in his eyes. At that moment, his private secretary entered the room; taking a deep breath, Pope Benedict rose to his feet and pasted a smile on his face. "Please, be seated. I have a job for you," he said.

END OF PROLOGUE

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