The Roman Catholic Church is bracing itself for an expose to be published next month which takes the lid off Opus Dei - a powerful and secretive sect operating within the Vatican.
The book, titled Their Kingdom Come, is the result of a controversial investigation by journalist Robert Hutchison. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the cult which has shrouded itself in mystery and controversy since its formation 70 years ago. Mr Hutchison is a Swiss-based Canadian journalist who has worked as a stringer for two London-based national papers and who has already written four investigative non-fiction books covering a range of subjects.
Their Kingdom Come reveals Opus Dei to be not just highly secretive but also ruthless, possessing many characteristics of a dangerous sect yet operating with full Papal authority at the very heart of the Catholic Church. Its members are highly influential in a number of spheres.
It was founded in 1928 and now has more financial resources than many Third World countries.
Of its elite 80,000 membership only 10% are priests. It includes many leading figures in the world of finance, communications and government. To achieve its aims it controls members through a combination of secret rites "holy coercion" and insists on absolute obedience.
Mr Hutchison claims that at Opus Dei's headquarters in Rome work is already in progress to ensure that the next Conclave, which will elect the successor to John Paul II, will elect a Pope "doctrinally sound" of Opus Dei's choosing.
In the Vatican itself Opus Dei is the dominant force within the Roman Curia (Vatican Civil Service) which governs the Church.
It is deeply involved in the Vatican's finances and helps shape the Holy See's foreign policy.
In this book the author claims Opus Dei has infiltrated the political infrastructure of numerous states, including America, Spain and Italy. Its influence he says inside the Clinton administration was a factor in Washington's decision to back a strong Croatia while breaking the weapons embargo against Bosnia to counter a growing Iranian presence in the Balkans.
The sect also, according to Mr Hutchison, operates what it calls an "apostolate of the press" through which it secretly controls a significant number of broadcast networks, news publications, press agencies, film production companies and publishing houses.
It admits that members are present on the staffs of more than 600 newspapers, magazines and scientific publications world-wide.
The organisation was linked, through its connection with the Vatican bank and Banco Ambrosiano, to the Italian financier Roberto Calvi, dubbed "God's Banker", who was found dead under Blackfriars Bridge in London.
Mr Hutchison first became interested in Opus Dei in the 1960s when a banker in Geneva told him that the organisation was one of the largest speculators in the Eurodollar market.