In dramatic stories and sweeping panoramas, distinguished historian John T. McGreevy tells the mesmerising story of a Church torn between the forces of reform and reaction for the past 250 years. Anti-monarchist French clerics celebrated the Revolution, but the murder of priests and destruction of churches in the Terror galvanised a powerful conservative reaction that reverberates to this day. Missionaries around the world greatly expanded the Church’s influence while bringing new tensions between a culturally diverse syncretism and the ultimate authority of Rome. The aspirations of the faithful for justice in this world-African Catholics fighting for independence, Latin Americans developing a theology of liberation, Polish and South Korean Catholics demanding democratic governments-challenged the politically cautious. The cataclysms of the Second World War, decolonisation, the Second Vatican Council and clerical sexual abuse have each remade the Church, leaving Pope Francis with the superhuman task of charting a path for over one billion Catholics worldwide.