Pale moonlight sliced through night’s cold darkness. The eerie rays, colored by the stained glass window—a dove as Holy Spirit surrounded by 12 rays representing the apostles—fell dimly upon the anterior of the Cathedra Petri, The Chair of St. Peter, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterpiece. The chair, or throne as many Christians see it, is encased in gilt bronze. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, considered the fathers of the Latin Church, stand on the right of the chair. Fathers of the Greek church, St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom, stand to the left. The top of the chair, adorned with cherubim, cast grotesque shadows upon five cardinals meeting in secrecy below.
“Cardinal DiMarco, we have already let this go too far.” Cardinal Conti was the youngest, and therefore the least powerful, of the collected cardinals. He was also a sickly man, weighing no more than a hundred and forty pounds at almost six feet tall. He coughed far too much for a man of only forty five.
“How is it possible to go too far to protect St. Peter’s Church? Brother Elias has already found the tomb. He is but one step away from ensuring the future of the Sancta Sedes.” Cardinal DiMarco made no effort to hide his disdain. He did, however, hide the fact that he agreed.
He stood in the middle of the four cardinals, the subject of their ad hoc inquisition. It was up to him to convince the tribunal of four that Brother Elias’ actions were warranted. He had, after all, killed two priests in his quest for answers, murdering them in a most gruesome manner. Killing priests put the cardinals on edge; how far would this brother go to complete his mission?
Cardinal Moretti’s red robes rustled. He was an average sized man with an unremarkable face, the type whose nationality was hard to guess at. “Cardinal DiMarco, I believe what our good friend, Cardinal Conti, is saying is that,” he paused and looked over his shoulder before continuing in a whisper, “the taking of life is simply unacceptable. This brother has gone too far. He could bring us all down. Bring down the Holy See itself. There has to be another way to get the information we seek.”
Cardinal Moretti, only two years Cardinal DiMarco’s senior, had the ear of Cardinal Rossi. Rossi, at eighty nine years of age, had the final word in all such matters. Convincing him to ignore Moretti’s advice would be difficult at best. Cardinal DiMarco needed to collect his wits, to lay out a reasoned summation that was incontestable. After all, he had as much chance as any of them at the next Conclave to be elected the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. He took a few moments to breathe deeply and say a prayer before answering Conti’s argument.
“The Roman Catholic Church serves one purpose and one purpose alone. To ensure the children of God are brought into the fold and are directed down the path to His Kingdom. The job of the Holy See is to continue St. Peter’s mission on earth, a mission given to Peter by Jesus himself. A mission to ensure the path to Heaven remains open. Brother Elias’ job is to ensure that a barricade to the path cannot be erected. Yes, he needs direction. Yes, it could be argued, that less, shall we say, invasive techniques would be appropriate. But he must not be stopped. He must complete his mission or the church—no, dare I say all of Christianity—will fall. Even if we must risk our own admittance to the Kingdom of God, then so be it.” Cardinal DiMarco’s voice rang out upon the empty pews of the chapel.
Several moments passed without comment. Then, Cardinal Rossi wheeled his chair close to Cardinal DiMarco. His pale, liver-spotted head had only a few white hairs that sprouted seemingly randomly. He twisted an arthritic neck to the side so he could look up from his ever declining posture. His tortured face took on an even greater scowl. Then he spoke the deciding opinion.