Like many people, I'm starting to really admire Pope Francis for his humility and simplicity. When I first heard that the new pope had chosen that name, I immediately thought of one of my all-time favorite novels, The Vicar of Christ, by Princeton professor Walter F. Murphy, published in 1978, which spent three months on the NY Times best-seller list. It's on the bookshelf directly behind me as I write this.
The protagonist is an American, Declan Patrick Walsh, the son of a career diplomat, Marine war hero (as was the author), and law professor. Walsh's unusual path to the papacy is imaginatively written but not implausible. As pope, he takes the name Francesco (after both Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits), and emphasizes simplicity and helping the poor.
The New York Times's obituary of author Murphy quotes a Times reviewer: “If, to keep in touch, you require yourself to read at least one best-selling novel a year, ‘The Vicar of Christ’ is the one. It has the grace to click.”