Pope John Paul I conspiracy theories
Pope John Paul Idied alone in September 1978. The suddenness of the death, and the Vatican's difficulties with the ceremonial and legal death procedures (such as issuing a legitimate death certificate) have resulted in several conspiracy theories.
Discrepancies in the Vatican's account of the events surrounding
John Paul I's death—its inaccurate statements about who found the body, what he had been reading, when he had been found and whether an autopsy could be carried outFact|date=February 2007—produced a number of conspiracy theories, many associated with the Vatican Bank, which owned many shares in Banco Ambrosiano.
motion picture" The Godfather, Part III" featured a story element depicting Società Generale Immobiliare, the largest real estatecompany in the world whose former largest shareholder was the Holy See, and the Vatican Bankinvolved in organized crimeduring and after the death of the old pope and the election of a fictional Cardinal named Lamberto to the papacy. Lamberto takes the papal name "John Paul I" and, like the real Pope John Paul I, he mysteriously dies.
David Yallop's book
David Yallop's book "In God's Name" proposed the theory that the pope was in "potential danger" because of corruption in the Istituto per le Opere Religiose (IOR, Institute of Religious Works, the Vatican's most powerful financial institution, commonly known as the Vatican Bank), which owned many shares in Banco Ambrosiano. The Vatican Bank lost about a quarter of a billion dollars.
This corruption was real and is known to have involved the bank's head,
Paul Marcinkus, along with Roberto Calviof the Banco Ambrosiano, Calvi being a member of P2, an illegal Italian Masonic lodge which is known to have attempted to take over the political running of Italy. Calvi was found dead in London, after disappearing just before the corruption became public. His death was ruled suicide. This "suicide" verdict has now been overturned largely thanks to the work of Anglo-American journalist Jeff Katz, and Calvi's death ruled as murder (with possible symbolic "clues"). Four men are currently on trial for Calvi's murder.
The day before Calvi's corpse was discovered, his secretary also "committed suicide" by falling from a fourth floor office window at the bank's headquarters. A note was found which attacked Calvi for bringing the bank into disrepute.
Yallop also offers as suspects Archbishop
John Patrick Codyof Chicago, whom he believes Luciani was about to force into retirement, and Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot, because of his supposed theological differences with the new pope.
Yallop catalogues a number of remarks made by the Pope, indicating that he believed the church's position on contraception was immoral and outdated. In conversation with several people, the Pope had indicated that a rethink of the
encyclical" Humanae Vitae" was needed, allowing the use of the contraceptive pill among the faithful. The late Pope supported these comments by reference to malnutritionin the Third World, with the words "God does not always provide".
Luciani had been elected pontiff largely through the support of Cardinals from the Third World, with whom he had shared a desire for a "Third World" Pope when he arrived at the Conclave that ultimately elected him John Paul I. The proposed candidate was Brazilian Cardinal
Aloísio Lorscheider, but when his nomination failed to attract significant support, other Third World representatives switched their votes to Luciani, reasoning that he at least shared their sympathies.
Yallop's book exposed many of the inaccurate statements issued by the Vatican in the days after John Paul's death and received international attention, including demands from some senior churchmen for an inquiry into the death itself.
Yallop's theories were undermined in the eyes of some by John Cornwell's subsequent book (see below), which proposes a 'benign' conspiracy to account for the discrepancies in the official version of the Pope's death. After decades of ongoing controversy, it has recently been reported that the investigation about the death of John Paul I would be reopened. Fact|date=April 2007
Following on from Yallop's book,
Robert Hutchison's "" appeared in 1997. Hutchison believes that several individuals within the church who were opposed to Opus Deiwho ostensibly died from heart attacks may in fact have been poisoned, and, drawing on Yallop's thesis, he suggests that this fate may also have befallen John Paul I.
Malachi Martin's book
Malachi Martin's book "Vatican: a novel" is, officially a work of fiction, a novel based on recent papal history. As a Vatican insider he combines fact and fiction in an indirect way in order to relate his controversial opinions and private information.
Martin proposes the theory that the pope was murdered by the
Soviet Unionbecause he would abdicate the benign policy of his two predecessors, Pope John XXIIIand Paul VI, towards accommodating communism, and once again condemn it as an atheistic totalitarian ideology. Martin believes the church structure was infiltrated by communist agents over decades, who reached positions of high influence and rank, like Jean-Marie Villot, at that time Cardinal Secretary of State.
John Paul I allegedly wanted to remove these agents, instruments of Soviet communism working from inside the church hierarchy, thus reducing greatly its influence in church politics.
John Cornwell's book
In his book "A Thief in The Night", British historian and journalist John Cornwell examines and challenges Yallop’s points of suspicion.
Yallop’s murder theory requires that the pope’s body be found at 4:30 or 4:45 a.m., one hour earlier than official reports estimated. He bases this on an early story by the Italian news service ANSA that garbled the time and misrepresented the layout of the papal apartments. Yallop also claims to have had testimony from Sister Vincenza to this effect but refused to show Cornwell his transcripts.
Both papal secretaries and a confidante of the late Sister Vincenza insist that the body was discovered about 5:30 a.m. The nun noticed that the coffee she had left outside the pope’s bedroom door a few minutes earlier, as per his morning routine, had not been touched. She went through two sets of doors and parted a curtain to find John Paul dead on his bed with a light on and reading material in his hands. Magee was summoned first, then Lorenzi. They found
rigor mortisalready beginning to set in and tore the Pope’s cassockwhile preparing his private laying-out. This supports the official estimate for time of death as 11 p.m. the previous evening.
Yallop suggests that a real sealing-off of the Pope's corpse from public gaze was performed to allow a “secret” autopsy. Cornwell claims that he refers to a simple cosmetic retouching of the corpse.
A major source of suspicion for Yallop was the lack of a publicly-issued
death certificate, which he claimed showed either official reticency in assigning a cause of death, or an outright lack of medical authority for the "heart attack" claim. Although Cornwell was apparently given access to the death certificate, and reproduces it, Yallop is proven correct in that the document fails to satisfactorily resolve the cause of the Pope's death.
Yallop also relates (without endorsing) a claim that the undertakers were summoned at 5 a.m. before the official finding of the body, but this is based on an incorrect news story taken from garbled secondhand information. The Vatican carpool log shows the embalmers were sent for at 5:15 p.m. The procedure began about 7 p.m.
Yallop questions the disappearance of incriminating personal effects, supposedly removed by Cardinal Villot. He thinks John Paul’s slippers and glasses might have been stained with vomit caused by the digitalis poisoning. But Cornwell finds that the Pope’s sister took them. His last will was a brief document bequeathing his goods to a Venetian
Yallop’s one damning datum was a
Swiss Guard’s observation of Marcinkus on foot lurking near the papal residence at an unusually early hour on the morning of the Pope’s death. But the guardsman, Hans Roggen, told Cornwell that his testimony was taken deceptively and misrepresented. Marcinkus was a demonstrably early riser and had driven in at his usual time.
Cornwell's research suggests that Luciani had indeed been in poor health, in which claim he is supported to an extent by the late Pope's niece Pia, herself a medical doctor, and anecdotally by many senior but medically inexpert Vatican figures.
His niece, Pia, suggested that Luciani suffered from swollen ankles and feet (a sign of poor circulation and excessive coagulability of the blood) such that he could not wear the shoes purchased for him at the time of his election. Curiously, a Vatican physician had not seen him nor had his prescriptions filled. These conditions were also noted by Yallop, who talked with the Pope's doctor and found the swollen ankles a sign of low blood pressure. The late Pope did not drink, had never smoked and ate sparingly.
Cornwell concluded that John Paul I died of a
pulmonary embolism(which was supported to a degree by the fact that Luciani had experienced a retinal embolism in 1976).
Cornwell suggested that John Paul died at about 9.30 p.m., perhaps 10.00 p.m., at his desk and was found on the floor by the priest secretaries. These moved the body into the bed and placed it in what is truly an unusual position for a person who has died suddenly (sitting up, eyeglasses in place and papers in hand), with no indication whatsoever that he was experiencing a fatal attack. Lying next to the Pope was a report on the Jesuit Order that had just been completed, but history is unclear as to whether John Paul had just finished reading the report or had in fact been writing it.Fact|date=July 2007
Cornwell's rationale is that by moving the Pope's corpse, the two secretaries were trying to disguise the late Pope's supposed health problems. Cornwell claims that the Pope had suffered two episodes of acute chest pain that are consistent with a diagnosis of an imminent pulmonary embolism, as well as a severe coughing fit. There is no medical record that supports this.
The two secretaries had suggested that in both cases of chest pain the Pope's doctors should be summoned, but the Pope had brushed them off. Cornwell claims that guilt drove them to want to make his death look sudden so that no blame would fall on them. (In addition it would be more respectful to Luciani's memory and the papacy's honour for it to be suggested that Luciani had died a dignified death sitting reading on his bed, rather than crumpled in a
fetal positionon the ground.)
Both secretaries (one, John Magee, is now the Irish
Catholic bishop of Cloyne) deny Cornwell's claims.
Cornwell's theory is held to explain strange comments by both men; Magee reportedly talked on the night of the Pope's death to the nuns in the Papal Household about the possibility of the Pope's death "that night".
The other secretary reportedly spoke of the pope's back and feet still being warm when he lifted him. Even if the Pope had died in bed, Cornwell believes
algor mortiswould mean his corpse would have been externally cold by the time he was found (around 5.30 a.m., by which time rigor mortishad set in). There is dispute over this suggestion, since Cornwell also claims that the summer of 1978 saw a high air temperature in Rome that was behind the decision to embalm the Pope as soon as possible (see above). Cornwell's conclusion of rigor mortis onset also contradicts his conclusion that the Pope's corpse was manipulated into position (sitting up in bed, holding papers) after discovery.
Demands for the exhumation of the Pope's embalmed remains and the execution of a belated publicly-accountable and independent autopsy have continued.
In popular culture
Lead singer of The Fall,
Mark E Smithwrote a play entitled " Hey, Luciani", about the purported murder conspiracy, which was produced and performed in London. Several songs from the play were released as Fall singles.
Shaun Micallefwrote a one-act play entitled "The Death of Pope John Paul I". In it the pope is found in bed, sitting upright, unable to be woken. Two cardinals attempt to perform the ritulalistic tapping with the silver hammerbut no-one can locate the proper instrument, so they use a claw hammerinstead.
The film "
The Pope Must Die" takes its title from a passage in Yallop's book. The film's plot - a poor country priest becomes a reforming Pope, pitched against a corrupt and Mafia-riddled Vatican - is a parody of Luciani's career, ending in comedy rather than tragedy.
The Last Confession" is a play written by Roger Crane. It is a thriller that tracks the dramatic tensions, crises of faith and political manoeuvrings inside the Vatican surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I. The play toured the UK in the spring of 2007, before being transferred to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, with a cast including David Suchet. It was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 4th October, 2008.
The film "
The Godfather Part III" contains plot elements including a Vatican bank scandal, and a Pope named John Paul I assassinated after only a short time in office (taking place in 1980 as opposed to 1978).
At one point, comic book series "
Warrior Nun Areala" flashes back to John Paul I's pontificate. Shortly after being elected to the papacy John Paul discovers a conspiracy of demon worshipping Free Masons in the Vatican and works to root them out. Discovered, the Masons kill him in order to continue their goal to destroy the Catholic Church. While John Paul does die, the Warrior Nuns manage to avenge him.
List of murdered Popes
* Mark E Smith on JPI ("New Musical Express", 13 December 1986) [http://www.visi.com/fall/gigography/86dec13.html]
* Lyrics for "Hey, Luciani!" by The Fall [http://www.azlyrics.us/89386]
* A comparison of Yallop and Cornwell: [http://www.crisismagazine.com/julaug2003/miesel.htm]
* NY Times: "Was the Pope murdered?" (5 November, 1989) [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE1DC113CF936A35752C1A96F948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1]
* "Catholic Counter-Reformation" essay on JPI: [http://www.crc-internet.org/oct84a.htm]
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