"Spies in the Vatican" focuses on the era of Pope John Paul. Koehler reveals a slew of interesting facts, now that much of the Communist documents are available.
From its inception, Communist Russia was an atheist regime. And, from Lenin onwards, the Communists had the Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Protestant clergy rounded up like cattle, and shipped to the Gulag to die of starvation or neglect. Or, for those members of the clergy who were more prominent, murdered quickly. Lenin wrote "'Now, and only now, when people are being eaten in famine stricken areas, and hundreds, if not thousands, of corpses lie on the roads, we can (and therefore must) pursue the removal of church property with the most frenzied and ruthless energy and not hesitate to put down the least opposition" (p 7). Atheists are always such charmers, aren't they?
The election of Pope John Paul sent the Politburo into a tailspin of worry. They noted in horror the reaction in Poland where "people embraced each other and got on their knees on the streets" (p 58) after John Paul's election. The Stasi's report on the crisis was "more than an inch thick, 214 pages" (p 69).
Worse news was to follow. The pope promptly visited Poland, and, at one point, "well over 800,000 Poles gave the pontiff a joyous welcome to Krakow" (p 77). It was clear that the pope, furthermore, had been elected "at a time when his land was on the verge of chaos with ever-increasing anti-Soviet sentiment among the people, especially the working class" (p 87). Anti-communist sentiment grew among the Poles, and the movement Solidarity was formed.
Koehler details the way the Soviets responded, including naming the names of some of the more notable spies the Soviets sent to the Vatican. But their real response came in late April 1981.
Agca shot the pope, but the bullet went slightly astray, and the pope was only wounded.
The Communists had lost. As Solidarity grew into a vast political force, the Soviets faced a determined Ronald Reagan and a clearly anti-Communist Pope John Paul.
This is one book you will certainly want in your library. Also, any Catholic interested in this book will also want to read "Catholic Martyrs of the 20th Century" which goes into detail about how the Communists murdered priest, nuns, and the laity in places as diverse as Mexico, Spain, and China during the past century.