Reading guide for The Third Secret by Steve Berry

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The Third Secret

by Steve Berry

The Third Secret
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 416 pages
    Jan 2006, 400 pages

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How did your own religious beliefs influence the way you read The Third Secret? Can non-Catholics appreciate the novel?

  2. Fatima is one of many sites around the world where people believe the Virgin Mary has appeared and imparted a message to humanity. Why do you think there have been, and continue to be, reports of visitations by the Virgin? Is it a spiritual phenomenon or a psychological one?

  3. In the course of the novel, all the major characters wrestle with the question of faith. Some lose their faith; others find it anew. How would you define faith? How do Berry's characters manifest this quality? Is it always a good thing to have faith?

  4. What do you think about the message Mary gives to Michener–the "third secret" of the novel's title? If it were truly the third secret of Fatima, would the church actively suppress it, as it does in the novel? What might the effect of its public revelation be on the church?

  5. Given what you know about the church and the religious teachings of Jesus as contained in the New Testament, is Berry's take on the Virgin's third secret a plausible one? If not, do you believe the church has fully revealed the true secret? And why did it wait so long to release it?

  6. Do you think the portrait Berry paints of a Vatican rife with intrigue is fair or accurate? Is he guilty of using stereotypes and prejudices about the Catholic Church and its leaders?

  7. Does the Virgin Mary really appear to Michener, or is his vision a hallucination brought on by the injuries he suffered in the lightning strike? How might the meaning of the novel change depending on how readers answer this question?

  8. Does the Catholic Church need to change in order to thrive in the future? Why is the church seen by so many as being averse to change? Is it an understandable position or something the church needs to improve?

  9. Michener is a priest who has never served a parish, he has broken his vows of celibacy, doubts his own faith. Despite his position as papal secretary, he remains an innocent, out of his depth when it comes to the machinations of Cardinal Valendrea. Why do you suppose Berry made his hero such a flawed man?

  10. Katerina Lew begins the novel as a self-centered opportunist with a habit of rationalizing her betrayals. Does she really change over the course of the novel, or is her talk of working side by side with Michener in the orphanage just the latest in a long line of self-deceptions?

  11. Is Cardinal Valendrea acting for himself or for what he genuinely believes is the good of the church?

  12. Imagine that a year has passed since the end of the novel. What effect has the revelation of the third secret had on the church? On the world? Are Michener and Katerina still together? What are they doing?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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