JOHN PAUL I, VICTIM POPE
OPE Paul VI died on August 6, 1978. The day before his departure for Rome, where he was to take part in the conclave, Cardinal Luciani took a stroll through the alleys of Venice’s deprived districts. Some children shouted merrily: «Look! Look! There goes the next Pope!» The Cardinal smiled and answered: «Oh no! It won’t be me, it will be someone else. Let’s say a Hail Mary together for him.1» The episode is worthy of the fioretti of Saint Pius X2. Despite his denials, Cardinal Luciani must have felt, in the circumstances, that truth comes from the mouth of children, at least, that is, if he had learned through his conversation with Sister Lucy (as everything seems to prove) that he would become Pope.
In Rome, on August 10, the Patriarch of Venice and his secretary Don Diego Lorenzi took lodgings in the International College of the Augustinians, situated in the Via di Sant’ Uffizio, not far from the colonnade in Saint Peter’s Square. He mingled discreetly among the community of friars as though he were nothing but a humble brother.
In the mornings he made his way to the general congregations of the cardinals. «He did everything he could to keep out of the limelight», Cardinal Gouyon would attest3.
In the afternoons he kept away from the consultations of the cardinals preparatory to the conclave. He would retire to the Augustinians, there to prepare the retreat lectures he was shortly to preach to the Venetian clergy. Then he would go for a private walk in the college gardens, saying his breviary. Sometimes he would stop for a friendly chat with the octogenarian brother-gardener, Franceschino. Finally he would sit down on an old bench to say his Rosary.
Hiding deep within himself the graces he was receiving, Cardinal Luciani
did not disclose all those he was obtaining through the prayer of the Holy
Rosary. Nevertheless he did confide, «If one knows how, the Rosary becomes a
gaze directed towards Mary which gradually grows in intensity as one says it… It helps us
to abandon ourselves to God, to accept suffering with generosity.4»
«AFFLICTED WITH SUFFERING AND PAIN»
The Patriarch could not think about the conclave and all the difficulties Paul VI’s successor would encounter without being seized with dread.
One day, in the Vatican, a Venetian who worked in the security services said to him as their paths crossed, «Eminence, allow me to offer you my best wishes for the conclave.
– How do you mean? That proves you wish me ill.
– On the contrary… At the 1958 conclave, Cardinal Roncalli said, “None of you desires to become Pope, but one of you must accept the position.”»
The Patriarch answered him, his face visibly grave, «If that was what was needed to get into Paradise, one might just about accept it.5»
On August 22, during a friendly conversation, Senator Lino Innocenti di Conegliano informed him that journalists were predicting that he would be the choice of the Sacred College. The Patriarch protested, declaring that «this report was baseless and that, if it were confirmed at the conclave, it would be a tragedy for him»6.
The day before the conclave opened, on Thursday, August 24, Cardinal Thiandoum invited him to dine with him at the Madri Pie Sisters in the Via Alcide De Gasperi. «The prognosis», the Archbishop of Dakar told him, «is that the Sacred College could well vote for you.
– That’s no business of mine», the Patriarch replied, becoming preoccupied and pensive7.
That day he hastily wrote several notes. To Doctor Gianni Urbani he wrote: «Even though, in the final analysis, it is the Lord who guides the Church, it is particularly important that the Vicar of Christ be a true man of God. To play a part in choosing him by one’s vote, to point one’s finger at someone and say to the Lord, “Take him”, is a great responsibility which fills me with awe. Fortunately I am confident that I will not be that person, despite several “tales” put about by journalists. “All that is pure conspiracy”, Pius X would have said.8»
«I don’t know how long the conclave will last», he remarked to his niece Pia Luciani. «It’s difficult to find someone capable of facing so many problems, problems that will become truly heavy crosses. Happily I am out of danger. Casting one’s vote in such circumstances has already become a heavy responsibility.9» «Reading these lines», his niece would state, «I readily grasped his anxiety and his fear. The fear of one who knows that, in all probability, it is he who will be elected.10»
«His insistent claim that he was “out of danger”», remarks Regina Kummer, «seems to have been a way of easing his mind, an attempt to free himself from the anguish gripping him. If he had really had no belief in the possibility of his being elected, why would he have seen it as a danger?» If he had thought it was totally out of the question that he might be elected, it would not have occupied his mind with such an intensity. «No, he was not “out of danger”. On the contrary, the danger was imminent. He knew it, or at least envisaged it, and he sought to conceal his feelings from all those who were close to him.11»
The conclave opened on Friday, August 25, 1978, late in the afternoon. When the Patriarch set off for the Vatican, Don Diego said to him, «Eminence, tomorrow, at this hour, you will already have received a great many votes.
– At any rate, if they make me Pope, I will refuse… I will tell them, “My dear Cardinals, I am very sorry but you must choose someone else.”12»
After the opening ceremony, the Patriarch passed with a heavy tread along the corridor of the loggia on the Vatican’s second floor, his Rosary in his hand13.
The next day, at the second ballot, the cardinals’ votes swung behind him in great numbers. «Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, as I was going to the Sistine Chapel for the third vote», Cardinal Malula would relate, «I met Patriarch Luciani. I embraced him because the way the conclave was going already showed that something was afoot. He said to me, “Tempestas magna est super me. A great storm is over my head.”14»
At the count for the fourth ballot, he «became very pale»15 as his share of the vote increased. «Several times», recounts one prelate, «I saw him clasp his face in his hands.16»
His colleague on his right, Cardinal Willebrands, whispered in his ear, «Courage! When the Lord gives a burden to carry, He also gives the grace to bear its weight.» As for his colleague on his left, Patriarch Ribeiro from Lisbon, he whispered to him, «Don’t be afraid. There are so many people throughout the world praying for the new Pope.17»
«As his election grew ever more likely», Cardinal Deardon remarked, «his face became more strained. After that he displayed a kind of resignation and even a great serenity.18»
Cardinal Pericle Felici came up to the Patriarch and handed him an envelope: «A message for the new Pope.
– Thank you, but it is not certain yet.»
Discovering in the envelope a small Way of the Cross, the Patriarch added that he hoped that Cardinal Felici might help him through Rome’s hazardous paths by becoming his Simon of Cyrene: «The way of the Popes is marked by the Cross. Help this poor Vicar of Christ to carry the Cross. Help him to ascend Calvary, for the good of the Church, the good of souls and the good of mankind.19»
The counting of the fourth ballot was over. Albino Luciani had been elected Pope, almost unanimously. One cardinal exclaimed, «Et exaltavit humiles. And God has exalted the humble.20»
There then came to him the idea of taking the name Pius XIII. He had a great veneration for Saint Pius X and he knew, as he sometimes reminded his close associates, that the Popes named Pius had been those who had had the greatest sufferings. But he abandoned this idea because he was afraid, as he would later confide, that «certain groups in the Church would take advantage of this choice»21.
Around 6:20 p.m., having taken the name of John Paul I, he appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Thousands of the faithful, who had hastened to the square, were moved, struck and even in some cases overwhelmed by the strength of his feelings and his lovely smile.
«The enduring memory is of that smile», writes David Yallop. «It touched the very soul […]. After the gloom and the agonizing of Paul VI, the contrast was an extraordinary shock. As the new Pope intoned the blessing Urbi et Orbi to the city and the world, the effect was similar to a burst of bright dazzling sun after an eternity of dark days.22»
«John Paul I’s smile», observed Raimondo Manzini, «revealed the man. It was the expression of his gentleness, his goodness, his unalterable simplicity. It was a smile that was virtually inexplicable, reeling as he was under the emotion of having received such an awe-inspiring responsibility, an emotion that tore through his soul like a subterranean flood of anxiety, but a flood that his faith, humility and confidence in the assistance of the Almighty succeeded wonderfully in calming.23»
On August 27, 1978, in his first message to Catholics throughout the world, John Paul I confessed his fears and anxieties: «Our soul is still overwhelmed when we think of the terrifying ministry for which we have been chosen. Like Peter we seem to have stepped out on to the perilous waters and, battered by the raging waves, we have cried out with him, “Lord, save me.” (Mt 14:30)»
But he regained his confidence as he raised his eyes towards the Immaculate: «The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, will be the resplendent star of Our pontificate.»
In this same speech we can already discern what was to become his ultimate testament: «The Gospel invites all its sons to place their personal energies, and even their very lives, at the service of their brothers, in the name of Christ’s love: “No greater love is there than to give one’s life for those one loves.” (Jn 15:13) At this solemn moment We wish to consecrate everything We are, and everything of which We are capable, to this supreme end, right up to Our last breath, conscious of the task that Christ has entrusted to Us: “Confirm thy brethren.” (Lk 22:32)24»
Several days later, when he granted an audience to members of his family, he appeared completely calm and revealed his truly supernatural spirit: «Our Lord will come to Our aid, precisely because I have done nothing to attain this position. So I am at peace. You also should be.25»
Nevertheless, he knew he was destined for martyrdom, or so at least we may presume. Several of his replies or private remarks clearly seem to be reminiscences of the mysterious prophecy that Sister Lucy had made to him.
Cardinal Sin, one of his neighbours in the conclave, had declared to him at the opening of the third ballot, «I am sure it is you who will be the new Pope.» Once he had been elected, John Paul I said to him, «You were a prophet, but my papacy will be short.26»
The day after his election, he had a conversation with his friend, Cardinal Felici: «I have placed on my table the Way of the Cross you offered me», he confided to him. «It has already begun.» The Cardinal remarked that at the top of the little Via crucis could be seen the risen Christ in triumph, to which John Paul I replied, «Indeed, but only after His death.27»
Above, on September 3, 1978, Cardinal Pericle Felici places the pallium on Pope John Paul I at the new Pope’s enthronement ceremony (photo Keystone).
Below, during the same ceremony, Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians, pays his respects to the Holy Father.
In his official speech to the Sacred College, on August 30, had he not declared, «We would like to reaffirm, along with you all, a readiness to be totally open to the inspirations of the Spirit for the good of the Church, which each of us, at the time of his elevation to the cardinals’ purple, promised to serve “even to the shedding of his blood”.» And he reminded the cardinals of Our Lord’s words pronounced on the dark night of His Passion: «Take heart, I have conquered the world.» (Jn 16:33)
Clearly John Paul I was going to be a sacrificial Pope. Regina Kummer writes, «John Paul I was himself to be the victim, just as a grain of wheat can only yield its fruit by dying. We should not be surprised that he sometimes asked in distress and amazement, “Why did they elect me? They should have chosen another prelate, one better equipped than I am.” But in God’s eyes, he was better equipped than any other for the mission for which he was destined, he and only he: to die like a divine seed and to bear fruit.28»
The Roman prelate who had the job of guiding him inside the Vatican was charmed by his goodnaturedness, but also by the pious invocations that sprang from his heart. «When I went to fetch him in his private apartment to escort him to an audience or to a ceremony», he recounts, «he would always ask me, “Where are you taking me?” Then he would add smilingly, “Take me wherever you want!” And often I head him murmuring, “Be Thou my guide, O Lord!”29»
From the day after his election, John Paul I began resolutely to fulfil all the duties of his office. Msgr. Giuseppe Caprio, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, remembers the new Pope’s first telephone call, on Sunday, August 27.
«My telephone rang and John Paul I told me in a firm voice, “This is the Pope here.” I was surprised by the determination and conviction with which he had pronounced these words: he was asking me to go up to the papal apartments. After that we saw each other two or three times a day. We worked together. I used to sit next to him, I would submit files to him, and he would make decisions. He was determined that his directives and orders should be followed. “If anyone makes difficulties for you”, he would say to me, “point out that it is the Pope who wants it.”30»
Twenty-four hours after his election, on August 27, the Holy Father took his first decisions regarding the Vatican finances. David Yallop recounts that, having provisionally reinstated Cardinal Villot in his office as Secretary of State, «he instructed him to initiate an investigation immediately. There was to be a review of the entire financial operation of the Vatican; a detailed analysis of every aspect. “No department, no congregation, no section is to be excluded”, Luciani told Villot. He made it clear that he was particularly concerned with the operation of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the Institute for Religious Works, generally known as the Vatican Bank. The financial review was to be done discreetly, quickly and completely.31»
The following day, when Msgr. Martin, Prefect of the Pontifical House, presented himself to John Paul I, he noticed that the latter was in the middle of devoutly saying his Rosary32. After his audience, Msgr. Martin noted in his diary, «The Pope is not taken in by popular acclamations. He remembers those which greeted Pius IX in 1846: “And after that came the crosses! For me the first of them have already arrived”.33»
«The first thing he asks for», remarked Cardinal Confalonieri, Dean of the Sacred College, «is prayers, prayers that he might worthily accomplish his mission.»
To the Superior General of the Jesuits the Holy Father wrote on August 30, «I send you and the whole Society of Jesus my thanks for your warm words and especially for the Masses and the prayers that you have said that the Lord may come to the poor Pope’s aid and allow him to tackle all the hard work and terrible problems lying in wait for him.34»
On September 3, the Feast of Saint Pius X and the day of the solemn inauguration of his own pontificate, before the ceremonies began, John Paul I spent a long time in prayer in the Crypt of the Vatican Basilica, in front of the tomb of Saint Peter, below the Altar of the Confession, just as Saint Pius X had done at the same moment of his election in order to calm the horrible tumult of his soul. Everyone was waiting for him. Cardinal Felici approached and whispered in his ear the liturgical greeting, «May the Lord make you happy on this earth!” To which this holy Pope, regaining his composure and spirit of adoration, smilingly replied, “Yes, happy on the outside, but if only you knew, Eminence what I am feeling on the inside!35»
John Paul I similarly opened his soul to Msgr. Pierre Canisius van Lierde, his Vicar General for Vatican City: «I want to let you into a secret. You see, Monseigneur, I’m always smiling but, believe me, deep down I’m suffering.36»
And so, from the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul I found himself, as in the vision of the Third Secret of Fatima, «afflicted with pain and sorrow».
In his biography of John Paul I, published in 1988, twelve years before the Secret was revealed, Regina Kummer wrote in a wonderfully apposite manner: «The smile of the “smiling Pope” was not a happy smile, contrary to what one might think, but a heroic smile, illumined by Christ. He was called to tread the way of the Cross, in accordance with the divine decree.» Now that Sister Lucy’s manuscript has been published, we can state that this “decree” had been recorded in the Third Secret.
«John Paul I continued along his path, docile to the divine will. Humbly
accepting its plans, he found in the Cross his true and authentic joy. Smiling,
he climbed Calvary during those thirty-three days; smiling, he drank the chalice
of his passion. He knew himself to be in the hands of the Father and the
instrument of His designs. What a seismic upheaval this soul had to undergo!37»
AN INSPIRED CONCLAVE
Very early on the Abbé de Nantes had a presentiment of John Paul I’s special vocation. In his editorial, “Another Saint Pius X without knowing it”, published on September 3, 1978, he wrote:
«As the 263rd successor of Saint Peter, he becomes Pope one hundred years after the death of Pius IX, seventy-five years after the election of Pius X, and twenty years after the death of Pius XII and the beginning of the Church’s great tribulation – twenty years of decadence under the names of John and Paul, the very names chosen by the new Pontiff.
«Signs? portents? Malachy calls him de medietate lunae. The half moon is the symbol of Venice, the gateway to the East, from whence he comes. But one should rather interpret it: from the split in the Church. A sign of woe. Whoever lives shall see. Here is something more serious though. At the very hour in which the Pope was elected, there took place the first showing of the Holy Shroud in Turin, the exhibition of the Holy Face of Jesus Crucified, the memorial of His Passion and the proof of His Resurrection, in the presence of 80,000 people. The Pope is our “sweet Christ on earth”, he is sometimes another Crucified One, like Saint Peter. Whoever lives shall see.38»
However, above all it was a sense of joy and exhilaration which gripped the Abbé de Nantes and filled his heart the day after the new Pope had been elected. It seemed like the good tidings that he had been awaiting for almost twenty years. Under the title “An Inspired Conclave”, he wrote:
«According to the Roman correspondent of the Figaro, “a fair number of cardinals, from the time of their arrival in Rome, had not concealed their desire to elect a Pope capable of continuing the work of clarification demanded by Paul VI at the Consistory of May 1976 and of restoring, if necessary, a little domestic order.” Right from the beginning these cardinals had voted for the Italian candidate recommended to their vote by the Roman cardinals in the Curia39. But the fact that two thirds of the assembly, perhaps even a unanimity40, should have rallied behind him without obstruction, without tumult, is mysterious and indeed quite extraordinary.41»
«The conclave had been expected to last a long time», said Cardinal Lorscheider. «However, the habitual opposition between conservatives and progressivists was brushed aside. This was truly down to a providential intervention by the Holy Spirit.42»
The Abbé de Nantes continued: «Without denying the College of Cardinals its surprising, indeed amazing merit, one must truly talk of a miracle in connection with this rapid, unanimous conclave and this general satisfaction throughout the whole Church. It is as though the election and the humble appearance of the new Pope had caused a grace of renewal – I was going to say an exorcism – to pass over the world, everyone feeling and showing themselves to be better, happier, more united, and in some manner, liberated. It is though there had been a miraculous conversion of hearts. Msgr. Etchegaray was correct when he spoke of “the massive confidence of the electors and, beyond the conclave, of all Catholics. It is a sign of hope for the Church to see a Pope elected in these conditions.” It is wonderful, it is truly encouraging to think that the cardinals were won over by virtue, even more so by the faith of one of their peers. A faith that is firm, a virtue that is humble and prefers to remain hidden but is all the more visible for that.43»
Our Father Superior was overjoyed because he discerned the clear signs of a Catholic renaissance, one that John Paul I was already in the process of implementing.
«This Pope, pious and firm in the faith, so good and so gracious, through his appearance alone has restored the heartfelt unity of the Christian people over that which is essential, namely the worship of God, faith in Him, personal piety, and the practice of the virtues, especially fraternal charity. And the Church felt she was coming alive again, freed from the shackles of the postconciliar novelties, the tyranny of the reformist intellectuals and the intolerable demands made by the opening to the world. Was it really so simple after all to be a Catholic? The Pope’s smile showed that it was; it preached that it was a joy, a real happiness.
«To the applause of the whole Church, John Paul I was restoring that religion of all time which we had been defending against the tide for twenty years – and openly! – in the face of the all-powerful conciliar and postconciliar revolution.44»
The smile, and even happy laugh of John Paul I, occasionally shot through with the keenest emotion, «was not indicative of a joking or carefree attitude. It was a communicative demonstration, an invincible preaching of supernatural faith, hope and charity. Did he not hold up as an example, on September 20, “those joyous and energetic saints” who make us overlook, during the catastrophic periods of the Church, “any over-pessimistic affirmations and tendencies? Saint Thomas Aquinas, for example, ranks iucunditas among the virtues, that is the ability to convert into a joyous smile – in an appropriate manner and degree – what one has seen and heard. In keeping with the joyous news announced by Christ, in keeping with the hilaritas recommended by Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas thus imparted a note of joy to the Christian life and invited us to draw good cheer from the pure, wholesome joys that we encounter on our way.”
«John Paul I had hit the nail on the head. Behind all the official declarations of optimism, the faithful could not take any more of the climate of failure and the collapse of the past ten years. They reacted to this smile with a tremendous ovation which reverberated to the four corners of the earth. For this smile, this laugh, were in their own way an affirmation of heroic self-giving, of trust in God, in the Church, in all of us, and of love.
«Speaking to his people in Saint John Lateran’s on September 23, he said, “It
is the law of God that one cannot do good to anyone unless one love him first.
That is why Saint Pius X exclaimed on the occasion of his enthronement in Saint
Mark’s, What would become of me, Venetians, if I did not love you? Well,
I say the very same thing to you Romans.”45»
THE CATECHIST POPE
«It is a remarkable fact», noted the Abbé de Nantes, «and one we should keep in mind in the dark times that will soon be upon us, that the satisfaction manifested by everyone is accompanied by a lucid, premonitory and equally unanimous judgement concerning the person of John Paul I. Everyone knows who the newly elected pope is; he is the man of their choice and they accept him. He is an “enlightened realist”, the opposite of a benighted utopian. “He has the face of an honest man”, wrote the Venice Journal of their new Patriarch in 1969. “He is a wise and saintly man”, today pronounces Cardinal Lercaro. Beneath this smiling face, in this truly lovable holiness which reveals the fervent disciple of Saint Francis de Sales, all have seen, admired, accepted and loved these two major virtues: a doctrinal rigour and unbending morality, tempered by a great kindness towards people and especially the poor.46»
The true religion appeared or rather radiated from the gestures, prayers and words of the Holy Father.
«I will make few speeches», he had warned. «They will be short and within the grasp of everybody. I will make use of all forms of collaboration, but I wish to write my speeches myself.47» John Paul I was always inclined to improvise, and that is why his allocutions were not exactly the same as those that had been prepared and which appeared the following day in L’Osservatore Romano.
He had renounced the use of the sedia gestatoria. But the faithful were disappointed not to be able to see him, especially as John Paul I was of small stature: 1.67 m. So he took it up again from September 13.
His public audiences attracted an ever more numerous crowd: there were twenty thousand people on September 27, and on that day the audience had to be held twice.
The Pope inspired the humble faithful with enthusiasm by the very style of his allocutions which were peppered with images, anecdotes, memories, aphorisms and parables. «How well he preaches! We can understand everything.» This praise had come from a woman in the crowd, and Cardinal Felici, who had heard it with his own ears, had no difficulty showing how well deserved it was48.
The journalist Jean Bourdarias recalled that this type of preaching by a Pope was not unprecedented: «Pius X used to give catechism classes on Sundays in Vatican Square.49»
Beginning with his first general audience on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, John Paul I preached on humility. Thus he began to purify the Church from «the pride of the reformers»50.
Pope John Paul I.
«I can assure you that I love you, that I desire only one thing: to enter into your service and to place my poor powers, the little that I have and that I am, at everyone’s disposal.» (Homily of September 23, 1978, in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran; photo AFP).
«Before God the attitude of the just man is that of Abraham who said: “I am but dust and ashes before Thee, O Lord!” We must see ourselves as small before God. When I say, “Lord, I believe”, I am not at all ashamed of feeling like a little child before his mother; he believes in his mother; and I believe in the Lord, in what He has revealed to me […].
«I am in danger of saying something outrageous, but I will still say it: Our Lord loves humility so dearly that He sometimes permits serious sins. Why? Because those who have committed them and who subsequently repent are humble. One has no wish to see oneself as a little saint or a little angel when one knows that one has committed enormous sins. “Be humble!” That is what Our Lord so strongly recommended to us. Even if you have done great things, you should say, “We are only unprofitable servants.” But, on the contrary, we all have a tendency to put ourselves forward. Be humble, truly humble.51»
The audience of September 13, on the Faith, gave a fresh radiance to Catholic truth: «When the poor Pope, when the bishops and the priests teach doctrine, they are merely assisting Jesus. This doctrine does not come from us, it is Christ’s: we are nothing but its guardians, we must simply make it known.52»
What judicious reflections in his speeches! What well-chosen stories to enlighten souls of good will. Listen to him replying during this same audience to one of the objections so often trotted out against the Church’s holiness:
«If a mother is unwell, if my mother should become lame, I would only love her all the more. It is the same in the Church. If there are defects and shortcomings within her – and there are –, I must not love her any the less for that.
«Yesterday I was sent an edition of Citta nuova where there was transcribed a short talk I had given in which I related the story of a British preacher called McNabb who used to talk about the Church in Hyde Park. At the end, someone asked to speak and said, “All that is very well, but I know a Catholic priest who has no time for the poor and who has grown very wealthy. I also know Catholics who have deceived their wives. I don’t like this Church which is made up of sinners.” The Father answered, “There’s something in what you say. But may I make an objection?” – “All right.” – “Excuse me if I am mistaken, but isn’t the collar of your shirt a little dirty?” – “Yes, so what?” – “If it’s dirty, it is either because you didn’t use soap on it, or else because you did use soap but it did no good!” – “It is because I didn’t use soap on it!” – “Ah well! the Catholic Church has an extraordinary soap: the Gospel, the sacraments and prayer. The Gospel read and practised, the sacraments properly celebrated, and prayer well said are a marvellous soap capable of making us all into saints. But we are not all saints, and that is why we have such great need of this soap.”53»
His sermon of September 20, on Christian hope, revealed his deep inner joy at knowing himself «swept up in a destiny of salvation that would one day open onto Paradise […]. I would love it if you had read an Easter Sunday sermon of Saint Augustine’s about the alleluia. The true alleluia, he says, will be sung by us in Paradise. It will be the alleluia of a love that is full. Here below we sing the alleluia of a love that remains unsatisfied, an alleluia of hope.54»
Finally, on September 27, he continued his truly evangelical teaching by speaking of the third theological virtue, charity, as ever with the same joyous simplicity.
«In a word, to love means making a journey, running with all one’s heart towards the object loved. The Imitation of Christ says, “He who loves runs, flies and leaps with joy.” (chapter 42) To love God is therefore to travel with one’s heart towards God. It is a really beautiful journey! When I was a child, I was thrilled by the journeys described by Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, From The Earth To The Moon, Around The World In Eighty Days, etc. But the journeys of love for God are far more interesting. An account of them can be found in the lives of the Saints. Saint Vincent de Paul, whose feast we celebrate today, for example, is a giant of charity. He loved God more than one loves a father or mother, and he himself became a father for prisoners, the sick, orphans and the poor. Saint Peter Claver signified his total consecration to God by signing himself, “Peter, the slave of the Negroes for ever.”
«This journey also involves sacrifice, but this must not hold us back. Jesus is on the cross. Do you want to embrace Him? You cannot do less, then, than to bend over the cross and let yourself be pricked by a thorn from the crown on His head (cf. Saint Francis de Sales, Oeuvres, Annecy, vol. 21, p. 153). You cannot act like that good Saint Peter who boldly exclaimed, “Long live Jesus!” on Mount Thabor where there was joy, but who did not show himself alongside Jesus on Mount Calvary where there was danger and suffering (cf. ibid., vol. 15, p. 140).55»
In his catechism instructions, the Holy Father re-taught the humble faithful to believe, to adore, to hope and to love, just as the Angel had done in 1916 for the three shepherd children, preparing the way for the Queen of Heaven.
In his address to the clergy of Rome on September 7, he visibly sought to revive in his priests the spirit of prayer, sacrifice and supernatural union with God:
«High discipline requires a suitable climate. And, above all, recollection. One day in the railway station in Milan I saw a porter who was sound asleep, his head resting on a sack of coal propped against a pillar. Trains pulled away whistling or came to a halt grinding their wheels; the loudspeakers continually broadcast deafening announcements; passengers came and went noisily. But he – sleeping on – seemed to say, “Do what you like, but I need to be left in peace.”
«We priests should behave in a similar manner. All around us there is incessant agitation; people, newspapers, radio and television drown us in words. With priestly moderation and discipline we must say, “Beyond certain limits, for me who am a priest of the Lord, you do not exist. I need a little silence for my soul. I detach myself from you in order to be united with my God.”56»
This truly evangelical teaching was an invitation to piety, to charity, to
apostolic zeal: once more it was a question of working out one’s salvation, of
pleasing the Lord within through the practice of the virtues, of continuing the
tradition of holiness, and then all the rest would be granted in addition.
«HALF TREMBLING, WITH HALTING STEP».
However, John Paul I was proceeding «half trembling, with halting step», as in the vision of the Third Secret, because he professed to accept the full legacy left by Paul VI and the Vatican II Council. Now the Council’s novelties, particularly its worldly and temporal humanism wholly directed towards building the earthly city, cannot be squared with a divine, Christian and supernatural moral code, whose essential end is the acquisition of eternal blessings. What is more, John Paul I’s official adoption of the doctrines of Paul VI and Vatican II placed him in a weak position to challenge the more revolutionary theories deriving from those doctrines.
His speech of September 20 shows just how uncertain and perilous was the path he had taken:
«I should like to speak about a hope that some describe as Christian, but which is only so up to a certain point. Let me explain. At the Council, I myself voted in favour of the Conciliar Fathers’ Message to the World. There it was stated that the Church’s principal task, which is to divinize, does not dispense her from the duty of humanizing. I voted for the constitution Gaudium et spes. I welcomed with emotion and enthusiasm the encyclical Populorum progressio. I think that the Church’s magisterium can never be insistent enough in presenting and recommending the solution to the great problems of freedom, justice, peace, and progress; and Catholic laymen can never fight hard enough to provide a solution to these problems.
«But it is an error to affirm that political, economic and social liberation coincides with salvation in Jesus Christ; that the Kingdom of God is identified with the Kingdom of man; that “Ubi Lenin, ibi Jerusalem; where Lenin is, there is Jerusalem.”»
He thus took issue with the thesis developed by liberation theologians, without however disowning conciliar humanism.
«At Freiburg in Breisgau», he went on, «there has been taking place over these last few days the 85th Katholikentag on the theme: A Future of Hope. They spoke of making the world a better place, and the word future was full of hope.
«But if from hope for the world one passes to hope for each individual soul, then one must also speak about eternity. Recalling his celebrated conversation with his mother Saint Monica on the coast at Ostia, Saint Augustine said, “Forgetting the past and gazing towards the future, we pondered what eternal life would be like.” (Confessions, 9:10) Now that is Christian hope. That is what Pope John used to think about, and that is what we ourselves think about when, with the catechism, we make this prayer: “My God, of Thy bounty I hope for eternal life and the graces necessary to merit it through the good works that I am bound and willing to perform. My God, grant that I may not be confounded for eternity.”57»
Very much impressed by so-called modern ideas, the new Pope could not clearly see how to resolve certain doctrinal and moral difficulties. In his homily of September 23, in Saint John Lateran’s, he confided this fact with great modesty: «The second reading, taken from the last chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is applicable to the faithful in Rome. It was chosen by the master of ceremonies. I confess that what it says about obedience embarrasses me a little. It is difficult nowadays to be convincing when one weighs the rights of the human person against the rights of authority and the law!58»
The beloved Pontiff lacked the mastery needed, the expertise of one who had conceived a vast synthesis that would have allowed him to oppose modern errors with a renewed body of Catholic doctrine.
Nevertheless, under the leadership of such a Pope, the differences in the Church might have been regulated in a climate of true charity. «John Paul I had none of the arrogance of the innovators», observed the Abbé de Nantes, «none of the incredible dogmatism of the new theologians and reformers assured of their infallibility in everything, even against the age-old Church and her magisterium.59»
Had not Albino Luciani admitted, «with his customary honesty and simplicity», that upon one point in the Council his conscience had rebelled? And the Abbé de Nantes had drawn an important lesson from this:
«Between John Paul I and ourselves, between the legacy of John and Paul which he had professedly espoused and our League of the Counter-Reformation, there remained an insurmountable opposition on precise, significant points of the faith. We could not, and shall never be able to, accept as a new dogma the so-called social right of Man to religious liberty. No more can we accept the cult of Man proclaimed by Paul VI before the whole Church on December 7, 1965, for the closing of the Council. Consequently, we had been told for fifteen years, both in France and in Rome, that we were pursuing a dead end.
«However, John Paul I has reopened the path before us by his simple words of honesty and humility. His words alone are the unmaking of heresy, they have unblocked the conciliar impasse. By themselves these words would justify the all too brief reign of the Pontiff on Saint Peter’s throne, in the unanimity of the Church unanimously recognising herself in him. Confessing his inner struggles during the Council and the difficulty he had had in coming round to the theses of the innovators, particularly the theory of religious liberty, he openly admitted, “The most difficult thesis for me to accept was that of religious liberty. For years I had taught the thesis that I had learned in Cardinal Ottaviani’s course on public law, according to which error has no rights. I studied the problem thoroughly and finally I became convinced that we had been mistaken.60” Another version of the same admission reads: “They persuaded me of my error.61”
«At one blow, the Pope’s candour restored everyone’s right to be heard, even after Vatican II, without any fraudulent excommunications. The true proportions of the present drama were reinstated, namely that some had ended up allowing themselves to be persuaded (or else had managed to persuade themselves) that the Church had previously been mistaken, while others remained persuaded (or else came ultimately to understand) that the ones who had been mistaken and deceived us were the innovators of this Council rather than the Church of all time. To admit the possibility of error, whichever side the mistake actually lies on, is to restore peace to the Church by relegating these difficult questions to the domain of free opinion pending a dogmatic Vatican III or the Pope’s infallible definitions.62»
John Paul I was certainly proceeding «with halting step», but he did so whilst manifesting an extraordinary gift and charisma for touching and rekindling hearts. His exhortations, like a shockwave, led to an emulation of spiritual conversion, of reconciliation between brothers and, even beyond this, of peace for men of good will.
On Sunday, September 24, at the Angelus, he spoke of «the violence continually experienced by our poor, troubled society». He cited the pitiful case of Luca Locci, a «child of seven, kidnapped three months earlier». Then he continued:
«People sometimes say, “We live in a society that is totally rotten and dishonest.” That is not true. There are still plenty of honest and decent people around. We should rather be asking ourselves: what needs to be done to improve society? Let each one of us make an effort to be good, so that the goodness we spread around us, totally permeated with the meekness and love taught us by Christ, becomes infectious. Christ’s golden rule was, “Do not do unto others what you do not wish them to do to you; do to others what you wish them to do to you; learn from Me because I am gentle and humble of heart.” He Himself was always giving. When they put Him to the cross, not only did He pardon His executioners, He also excused them: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is Christianity. If such sentiments were put into practice, they would aid society greatly.»
John Paul I then went on to talk about the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Georges Bernanos, alluding to his book Dialogues des Carmélites, which gave him an opportunity describe their martyrdom:
«In 1906, here in Rome, Pius X beatified the sixteen Carmelite Nuns of Compiègne, who died as martyrs during the French Revolution. The tribunal condemned them to death for “fanaticism”. One of them, in her simplicity, had asked: “My Lord Judge, if you please, what does fanaticism mean?” And the judge replied, “It means your stupid adherence to religion.”
«“Oh my Sisters”, she then exclaimed, “did you hear that? We’ve been condemned for our attachment to the faith. What happiness to die for Jesus Christ!”
«They were taken from the Conciergerie Prison and made to climb up onto the deadly cart. On the way they sang hymns. When they arrived at the guillotine, they knelt down, one after the other, before the Prioress and renewed their vow of obedience. They then intoned the Veni Creator. But the song became fainter and fainter as the heads of the poor Sisters fell one by one under the guillotine. Remaining behind until last, the Prioress, Mother Thérèse de Saint-Augustin, pronounced these final words, “Love will always be victorious; love is capable of everything.63” How true. It is love, not violence, that can achieve everything.
«Let us ask Our Lord for the grace of a new wave of love for our neighbour, one that will submerge this poor world.64»
Thus did the Holy Father remember this poor child, Luca Locci, a kidnap
victim. Well, on the following night, just as on Christmas night in the
Pastorales Provençales, she was freed by her kidnappers. Such were the
wonderful fruits of Albino Luciani’s radiant goodness and evangelical teaching.
THE CHOSEN ONE OF THE IMMACULATE
On September 3, during his enthronement ceremony, John Paul I spoke a few words at the end of his homily expressing his tender devotion for the Immaculate. He consecrated himself to Her with all his heart: «We commence our apostolic service by invoking as the splendid star who will enlighten our path, the Mother of God, Mary, Salus populi romani and Mater Ecclesiae, She for whom the liturgy has a special veneration in this month of September.
«May the Virgin who guided with a motherly tenderness my life as a child, seminarian, priest and bishop, continue to enlighten and direct our steps, so that, having become the voice of Peter, with our eyes and heart fixed on Her Son Jesus, we may proclaim before the world, with a joyous steadfastness, our profession of faith: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16)65»
That day, he received the respects of the Cardinals with his wonderful cordiality. To each he said a kindly word, and above all he begged their prayers: «Eminence, remember to say an Ave Maria for the Pope.66»
We rediscover his filial devotion to Our Most Blessed Mother in Heaven in his Apostolic Letter of September 24, addressed to his dears sons in Ecuador:
«We know that you are currently celebrating the third National Marian Congress on the theme “Ecuador for Christ through Mary.” Taking this theme as your starting point, make progress in life and apostolic action. May Mary, the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church and the most tender Mother of each of us, always be your model, guide and path towards the Elder Brother and Saviour of all, Jesus. And may She likewise, in these times both difficult and yet full of hope, be the star of evangelisation in Ecuador. 67»
What a programme! The path proposed to the Church by John Paul I was the Virgin Mary Herself. The Holy Father had appointed Cardinal Ratzinger, the then Archbishop of Munich, as the Apostolic Legate to this Marian Congress. The quotation from Saint Augustine accompanying the mission briefing was clearly chosen deliberately as the very expression of his soul:
«At Guayaquil let there shine out with a new Marian splendour that mystery about which Saint Augustine exclaimed in wondrous admiration: “What mind could contemplate, what tongue could express the fact that not only did the Word exist in the beginning without any principle of birth, but also that the Word was made flesh, that He chose a virgin to become His mother, a mother who remained a virgin... What can this be? Who could tell of it? Who could remain silent about it? Strange to say, but what we cannot express we cannot remain quiet about either; we loudly preach what our intelligence fails to grasp.”68»
John Paul I proclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary “Heavenly Patroness of the City of Itabirito”, in the diocese of Mariana in Brazil, under the title of Our Lady of the Safe Journey, and he elevated the sanctuary of Bedonia in Italy, dedicated to the Virgin of Consolation, to the rank of a minor basilica. How joyfully these two titles must have sounded in his ears!
We know not whether, during the thirty-three days of his pontificate, he ever read the Third Secret, kept in the palace of the Holy Office, and what his intentions were in its regard.
Before making it public, he doubtless wished to revive devotion to Our Lady of Fatima amongst the faithful. On July 11, 1977, he had spoken to Sister Lucy about the “Marian Tour” which was to commence in Italy, in preparation for the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of that nation’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary69. And indeed, in the autumn of 1978, a statue of the Virgin of Fatima began to wend its way throughout the dioceses of Italy on a journey that took two years.
The truth is that the thought of Fatima and Sister Lucy never left him. He spoke about this to Don Germano Pattaro, a theologian from Venice, whom he had invited to Rome to be his adviser:
«It is something that has troubled me this whole year. It has robbed me of my spiritual peace and tranquillity. Ever since that pilgrimage, I have never forgotten Fatima. What Sister Lucy told me has become a weight on my heart. I sought to convince myself that it was all an illusion. I prayed to forget about it. I would liked to have shared all this with someone close to me, to my brother Edoardo, but I never managed to. The thought was just too huge, too embarrassing, too contrary to my whole being. It was unthinkable, and yet Sister Lucy’s prediction has turned out to be true. Here I am. I am Pope.
«It is repugnant to me to speak of these things, but I do it in order to open my soul to you, to confide to you that I never wanted to become Pope.
«If I live, I shall return to Fatima to consecrate the world and particularly the peoples of Russia to the Blessed Virgin, in accordance with the instructions She gave to Sister Lucy.70»
So John Paul I had decided to accomplish the request of Our Lady of Fatima in an act of obedience and filial love towards Her Immaculate Heart. It is not surprising that he spoke of a consecration of the world and of the peoples of Russia for, at that time, the Virgin Mary’s exact request, namely the consecration of Russia and of Russia alone, was little known, having been widely misrepresented. Let us admire rather his inner dispositions: Pope John Paul I had resolved to perform the consecration «in accordance with the instructions given by the Blessed Virgin to Lucy». He had therefore entered into the divine plan with a childlike docility. In his humility, he wanted to do what the Blessed Virgin had requested, in exactly the manner She had requested it, and for the sole reason that She wished it thus.
«If I live...», he had said to Don Pattaro, as though he had been warned that he
would not live. In fact everything indicates that this is precisely what he had
learned from his conversation with Sister Lucy.
PIERCED WITH «ARROWS»
The Secret of Fatima shows us «a Bishop dressed in White killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him».
In his exegetical commentary on the vision, Brother Bruno de Jésus writes:
«This “group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him” represents the armies of Gog and Magog, symbolic names given by the Book of the Apocalypse to the nations conspiring against the Church at the end of the times: “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come forth to seduce the nations from all four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilise them for war, their numbers being as great as the sands of the sea; they went up throughout the entire land and besieged the camp of the saints, the beloved City.” (Ap 20:7-8)
«Already prophesied by Ezekiel, these armies are equipped with bows and arrows (Ez 39:3 and 9)!71»
It is important to remember the biblical and symbolic significance of arrows in the eternal plot of the wicked against the Servant of God. Let us quote Psalm 64:
Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
Preserve my life from dread of the enemy,
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the scheming of evildoers,
Who whet their tongues like swords,
Who aim bitter words like arrows,
Shooting from ambush at the blameless,
Shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
Jeremiah was the emblematic, figurative victim of this conspiracy, foreshadowing the suffering Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ exposed to the conspiracy of the Pharisees and Herodians from the very first day of His public life:
They bend their tongue like a bow;
Falsehood and not truth
Has grown strong in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,
Says the Lord. (Jr 9:2)
The «arrows» are the malevolent remarks of false brothers: «Their tongue is a deadly arrow; the words of their mouths are nothing but deceit; they speak peaceably to their friends, but in their hearts they lay a snare for them.» (Jr 9:7)
During his pontificate John Paul I was pierced by murderous «arrows». Whereas the simple folk in Rome were moved and enlightened by his short, joyful catechism lessons, the mainstream journalists mocked his preaching.
In France Le Monde meanly insinuated that the popular character of his catechesis and his aversion for the contortions of theology «arose from a lack of study on his part». The Minute contained this headline: «Don Camillo in the Vatican.» The Informations catholiques internationales distinguished itself by its perfidy: «Seen from close up, his ever-present smile lacks that touch of candour apparent in photographs; it expresses something akin to wiliness. An Italian friend explained this to me on the telephone, and he understood it as a compliment: “He is furbo”. By which he meant not a wicked rogue, as in the French fourbe, but someone who was crafty all the same.72»
It was not only attacks from malevolent journalists and modernist theologians now feeling threatened that the Holy Father had to put up with. He was persecuted by several prelates based in the Curia. Andrea Tornielli, his biographer, writes: «His simple style of preaching at the Wednesday audiences drew criticism and fierce comments from the Vatican establishment.73»
«His naive questions», writes J.-J. Thierrry, «his spontaneity, his indifference to formality, his ignorance of palace etiquette and of the Pope’s job, gave rise all around him to pitying smiles, condescending derision, indeed suspicions that were already hostile.74»
John Paul I suffered all this privately, but it was not the first time he had experienced acerbic criticisms of this kind. In Venice, let us remember, he had come into conflict and dispute with the progressivist minority of his clergy.
«Msgr. Luciani», writes Don Francesco Taffarel, «encountered difficulties and trials, often painful, which afflicted him; but he strove to conceal them, disguising them under a smiling face. He was in the habit of saying: “It is enough for me if God is happy with me. What I think of myself, I must play down; what others think of me, I must overlook; but what God thinks of me, that alone is what matters to me.”75»
Sometimes, almost overwhelmed, he would nevertheless react with his supernatural spirit: «Say a Hail Mary for me», he would ask those close to him, «so that the devil may not carry me off and that I may not sit down on the side of the road. Let us forge ahead. I did not move even my little finger to occupy this post. In fact my desire is to relinquish it, to retire, but let us go forward with confidence.76»
Sister Vincenza Taffarel, already in his service at the Archbishop’s house in Vittorio Veneto and at the Patriarch’s house in Venice, had followed him to Rome. When she spoke to him one day about the enthusiasm he was generating and the applause of the faithful, he replied: «Trust not a crowd that cries “Hosanna” and then just as easily “Crucify him”. It is on God that we must count, and it is through Him that things are done.77»
Rapidly did the Abbé de Nantes, in that month of September 1978, understand the imminence of the drama: the modernists, disturbed by the sudden resurgence of Tradition, were looking to compromise the Pope, or to discredit him and bring him down. «A confrontation was going to take place, one that was inevitable, implacable and deadly.» It would be «a great dramatic confrontation between those who hold the faith and those who are perverting it, between those who are building up the Church and those who are destroying it, between the men of God and the mercenaries of Satan, for that is what they are78».
The theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation had discerned what was still hidden from everyone’s eyes. Several of John Paul I’s parables «heralded the controversy to come, as did Christ’s terrifyingly clear allegories in Jerusalem, which made the scribes and Pharisees grind their teeth, as they saw that they had been exposed, and so made them want to kill Him. The sublime little parable about the Milan porter79 ostensibly teaches religious recollection and the worship of God even amidst the din of our great cities. But the intimate disciple – as well as the enemy whose hatred gives him a certain lucidity –understood therein an invitation to despise the world and its excessive demands, for God alone must be the master of all things in His Church.80»
On September 23, in his homily given in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, John Paul I announced that he would fulfil the duties of his charge by imitating Saint Gregory the Great, one of his predecessors on the see of Rome:
«The third book of his Regula pastoralis has as its theme: Qualiter doceat, How the pastor should teach. In forty chapters, Saint Gregory indicates in a concrete way various forms of instruction according to the circumstances, such as social condition, age, health, and temperament of the audience. Poor and rich, cheerful and melancholic, superiors and subjects, learned and ignorant, bold and timid, and so forth; all are there in this book. It is like the valley of Jehoshaphat. At Vatican Council II, what was called the “pastoral approach” seemed to be something new. It no longer referred to that which was taught by the pastors, rather to that which the pastors did to respond to men’s needs, aspirations and hopes. This new approach had already been applied many centuries earlier by Saint Gregory, both in preaching and in governing the Church [...].
«I would also like to see Rome give a good example in matters of liturgy, of a liturgy celebrated devoutly and without ill-placed “creativity”. Certain abuses in the liturgy have, by reaction, fostered attitudes that have led to positions that are in themselves untenable and contrary to the Gospel. By appealing with affection and hope to everyone’s sense of responsibility before God and the Church, I would like to be able to be assured that every liturgical irregularity will be carefully avoided [...].
«In Rome I shall put myself in the school of St Gregory the Great who writes: “The pastor should, with compassion, be close to each of those who are subject to him. Forgetful of his rank, he should consider himself the equal of his good subjects, but he should not fear to exercise the rights of his authority against the wicked.”81»
The Abbé de Nantes understood the import of such a warning: «Words long meditated upon, make no mistake! For the good they were the announcement of an exceptional season of gentle charity, of warm understanding and of an unaffected papal welcome, a renewal of patristic times under the easily discernible influence of Rosmini. To the bad – ah yes, the bad exist and they need to be accorded the charity of some rather more robust treatment – to the bad his words represented the authoritative imposition of respect for the divine faith and law, assisted, if need be, by the threat of ecclesiastical sanctions.82»
The journalist Jean Bourdarias revealed that John Paul I had lost his smile, with his collaborators, when he learned of the files left behind by Paul VI83. The Holy Father was to discover «that total leukaemia of disorder, apostasy and immorality, all of which had been spread, officially installed and encouraged from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy»84.
John Paul I had discovered the files containing requests for laicisation and dispensation from celibacy. Paul VI had granted them, from the very beginning of his papacy, at an average rate of ten per day85. In Vittorio Veneto, and later in Venice, the defections of certain of his priests had been like a wound in Msgr. Luciani’s heart, even causing him sleepless nights. He therefore took the courageous decision to arrest this haemorrhage. «John Paul I asked for an immediate revision of the criteria used for granting priestly dispensations, as he considered the number of requests reaching his desk to be excessive.86»
But he had heavier concerns: he found himself facing insurrection from senior prelates in the Curia who neglected his orders and contravened his directives. Msgr. Giuseppe Caprio, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, recalls one especially dramatic evening:
«There was a very important problem to resolve. John Paul I was keen to handle it personally. Just when he thought he was getting there, the affair began to take a different turn. It was only natural that he was concerned, as I was myself. We had drawn up a plan and now someone had blown apart this plan.87»
Sister Vincenza witnessed a scarcely believable scene, one that allows us a glimpse of the terrible pressures and threats that John Paul I had to suffer.
«While I was at Rome», she recounts, «I used to clean the sitting room around 8 a.m., for there was no one there at that time. One morning, making my usual visit, I was too late to notice that the Holy Father was already there. His posture revealed his profound affliction. By his side was his secretary. I made my apologies and hastily withdrew. Nevertheless, I had time to hear his secretary saying to him: “Holiness, it is you who are Peter! It is you who wield authority! Do not let yourself be intimidated...” That phrase spoke volumes.88»
«Poor Holy Father!» ... so spoke the Blessed Jacinta, a true prophet.
John Paul I was in conflict with Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio over the nominations of new bishops to several diocesan sees, including that of the Venice patriarchate. «The Pope», writes Andrea Tornielli, «had two possible candidates in mind for Venice: the Jesuit Bartolomeo Sorge, then director of the Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit monthly journal, and the Salesian Egidio Vigano. But the Congregation of Bishops, headed by Cardinal Baggio, had different views and presented the Pope with three candidates who were already bishops.»
Andrea Tornielli reports the testimony of Don Licio Boldrin. «In 1981», recounts this Venetian parish priest, «I met Cardinal Agostino Casaroli outside the Church of the Piazza del Gesù. I stopped to greet him and we spoke about Pope Luciani. “You know”, the Cardinal told me, “that the Pope had to find a successor for Venice and that he already had a number of names in mind. The Congregation of Bishops also had their own suggestions to submit to him. John Paul I insisted in one particular direction, the Congregation in another. Cardinal Baggio therefore asked me to win the Pope over, assuring me that the candidatures proposed had been thoroughly examined, and adding, You know, we don’t want anyone to speak ill of the Pope afterwards. So the following morning I took the liberty of telling Pope Luciani, Holiness, try to follow the Congregation’s directions. At least, like that, the Pope will not be criticised. He took me by the hand and said, Excellency, don’t talk like that, for if I needed to be wary of those who speak ill, I would have dismiss you from here immediately.”89»
The Pope confided to Don Pattaro, «I am beginning to understand things that I had previously not noticed. Here, everyone speaks ill of each other. If they were able, they would even speak ill of Jesus Christ.90»
Thus it was that, in the «great city half in ruins», John Paul
I encountered «corpses» on his path, men for whom he could do
nothing but «pray».
THE CONSPIRACY, IN ALL ITS TRUTH
The sudden death of the beloved Pope, on the night of September 28 to 29, 1978, immediately aroused grave suspicions amongst the citizens of Rome. In his editorial of October 1978, entitled “The Saint that God gave us”, the Abbé de Nantes wrote:
«“Hanno mazzato il papa! They have killed the Pope!” That is what they always whisper in Rome every time a Pope dies. But this time the rumour has become so widespread that even La Croix is informing its readers of it: “They killed him, say the Romans. He was too nice, too kind.” It then rather awkwardly adds: “By they is doubtless [without the slightest doubt!] meant the cares of the universal Church, and even more so the administration of the Vatican with all its complex machinery... For it appears that John Paul I collapsed under the weight of the papal office, each new day forcing him to confront new dossiers with difficult problems to resolve.” (La Croix, October 1-2)
«Let’s suppose we believe Jean Potin: what killed the Pope was doubtless the system, the dossiers, the problems, and not those who stand accused by the people of Rome. Will we ever know? God has permitted the death of His servant, that is for sure, and the Church will continue down the same path despite her enemies. For myself, in this murder I make no distinction between the dossiers and those who brought him the dossiers. What killed the holy Pope John Paul I was opening the secret dossiers of Paul VI.
«As for his other crosses, he would have borne these. Yes, Bernert of L’Aurore is right: the genocide coldly perpetrated by the Syrians against the Catholic Lebanese community was one such cross, and a heavy one at that: “It is imperative to stop this massacre”, said this great-hearted Pope on the very morning before his death, “to intervene as rapidly as possible on behalf of the Christians. I have just written to President Carter along these lines. We cannot leave these people to die.” (L’Aurore, October 3) It made him weep, he wanted to go to Beirut himself to be with his children in that bombed town [...].
«But the Vatican dossiers are truly of a different order. They reveal the immense auto-destruction of the Church and the smoke of Satan eloquently referred to by the previous pope, the full extent of which Cardinal Luciani had never previously considered. He had left all such matters to supreme authority, while he got on with fulfilling to perfection his own responsibilities, holding out his hand to everyone in his Venice patriarchate, but without tolerating the least disorder. Now what killed him was this: to have seen that he had to quit the peaceful paths of a prudent and professedly conciliar reformism in order to cut into the quick and combat the postconciliar disorder. If he felt himself too weak for such a struggle, then it is true that this was the cause of his death; but if, on the other hand, he had determined to immediately put up a fight, then perhaps they may indeed have killed him.91»
Although the Abbé de Nantes did not at the time know the true reasons for John Paul I’s murder as we know them today, he had at least a presentiment of them when he declared in this same editorial: «Had he lived a month longer, John Paul I would have started cleaning out the Augean stables, beginning with the Vatican. And it is for this very reason that he was not allowed to live. He was already aware of this, and yet he continued on his path with a smile in his eyes and the firmest resolve in his heart.92»
The Abbé de Nantes’ intuitions and suspicions were confirmed over the following months by information privately communicated to him93, then by the research of the writer Jean-Jacques Thierry94, but above all by the implacable demonstration published in May 1984 by the English journalist David Yallop in his book In God’s Name95. After three years of secret investigation, this seasoned investigator revealed how it was money that hatched the conspiracy against John Paul I.
Yallop, whose information was «verifiable on a thousand points»96, revealed the precise reasons and circumstances behind the Holy Father’s assassination by poisoning: «He denounces the six presumed partners and authors of this crime, men who were also totally bound up in a tissue of other sordid and financial crimes, both before and after. It is a fine and intelligent piece of work... He determines their motives and then, in an amazing fashion, minutely reconstitutes Cardinal Jean Villot’s activities in the twelve hours following the crime in order to make it look like a natural death.97»
In his gripping review of this work98, the Abbé de Nantes presented the remote cause of the financial embezzlement and fraud in which the Vatican was directly implicated, and which John Paul I had stood up against. In the Lateran Treaty agreed between Pius XI and Mussolini in 1929, the Church had received a colossal fortune in compensation for renouncing her rights over the Papal States: the lira equivalent of 81 million dollars at the time.
«The Vatican thus became a financial consortium, an element of that “anonymous and vagabond fortune’ so vigorously denounced by the Duke of Orleans in 1900, which knows of no lucrative activity other than speculation on the money market, stockjobbing, that vicious game of seesaw played out on the international markets with industrial and commercial stocks, the laundering of dirty money, the evasion of capital taxes, etc, all of which activities are simply illegal or absolutely criminal.
«The German ecclesiastical tax, the Kirchensteuer, instituted under the Hitler-Pacelli Concordat of 1933, added its own powerful and regular income to the already large flow of capitalist profit brought in through the Italian treasury. An easy speculation on gold at the approach of the war, which Pius XI knew to be unavoidable, allowed the financial power of Vatican Incorporated to be increased in a fabulous manner.
«In June 1942, all the assets and real estate entrusted to the Church for her pious charitable and apostolic works were entered into the dance of the stock market with the creation of the Institute for Religious Works. This was a cover for an audacious misuse of the gifts of the faithful, now no longer being used in conformity with their donors’ primary intention but for an intermediate one: speculation. The IOR is no longer a religious administration, but simply a bank, the Vatican Bank, receiving stolen goods and exploiting the gifts of the faithful without their knowledge.99»
In the course of that same year, 1942, Mussolini dispensed the Holy See from the requirement to pay tax on its dividends.
However, twenty-five years later, in 1967-1968, the Italian State wished to abolish this fiscal exemption. Paul VI therefore called upon Paul Marcinkus, a native of Chicago, and on Michele Sindona, a Sicilian mafioso, to organise a flight of capital of such enormous proportions that Italy was plunged into an economic crisis. This was the starting point of an infernal web of corruption so rigorously reconstituted by David Yallop that no one has ever been able to repudiate it in the smallest detail: systematic blackmail, corruption, and finally the Italian solution which consists in creating a climate of intimidation through murder, sometimes killing a magistrate who wants to know too much, sometimes a troublesome detective.
In 1978 the mafiosi who had been feeding their own bank accounts by siphoning off funds from “Vatican Incorporated”, were tracked down by the international police and prosecuted by the Italian and American justice systems for theft, forgery, illegality, crime and even for murders already committed under the cover of “Vatican Incorporated”. «In August, pressed hard on all sides, Roberto Calvi saw his empire breaking up, under suspicion, threatened. He felt the need for a change of air in South America where Licio Gelli was also looking for a little peace and quiet. Meanwhile their friend Michele Sindona lay in a New York prison, trembling at the imminent prospect of being extradited and handed over to Italian justice. One common point united them: as long as Bishop Marcinkus stayed put in Vatican Incorporated, they could breathe. Were he to leave, it would mean for each of them, in one way or another, a harsh return to reality, ruin, prison or suicide... or all three misfortunes together.100»
Yallop writes: «When the cardinals elected Albino Luciani to the Papacy on that hot August day in 1978, they set an honest, holy, totally incorruptible Pope on a collision course with Vatican Incorporated.101» A pope who had not forgotten how his priests and the poor were robbed by the Milanese and Vatican mafia when the Banca cattolica del Veneto was sold, nor all that he had learned from his friend, Cardinal Benelli102.
«The irresistible market forces of the Vatican Bank, APSA and the other money-making elements were about to be met by the immovable integrity of Albino Luciani»103. Those directing the Vatican Bank were Cardinal Villot and Archbishop Marcinkus, their accomplices Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, all from the “P2 Lodge” or affiliated thereto, and their protector Licio Gelli, its Grand Master.
The day after his election, «on Sunday, August 27th», recounts Yallop, «John Paul I asked Villot to continue as Secretary of State for “a little while, until I have found my way.”»104 This provisional measure constituted in itself a silent threat. In this manner he kept his enemies under his thumb and within his sight while he contemplated the regal blow that would bring them down for certain, remarks the Abbé de Nantes.
As we have already stated, on that very day John Paul I ordered his Secretary of State to re-examine all the Vatican’s financial operations. The Pope, after having read and studied his report, would then take any measures he deemed necessary.
On September 12 «a scandal sheet landed on the Holy Father’s desk claiming to reveal the names of 121 members of the Roman Curia registered as Freemasons. Among others: Cardinals Villot, Baggio and Poletti, Msgr. Casaroli, Bishop Marcinkus and his confederates, and Pope Paul’s secretary, Pasquale Macchi... One man was apparently the cover for them all: the Secretary of State, Jean Villot!105»
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, at the Cova da Iria.
On July 10, 1977, Cardinal Luciani celebrates Mass at Fatima, in front of the Basilica, before thousands of pilgrims gathered on the esplanade. (Archives of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima)
September 5, 1978. John Paul I welcomes Msgr. Nikodim, Orthodox Metropolitan of Leningrad, who would die suddenly during the audience. The Pope, kneeling beside him, would then recite prayers for the absolution of his sins.
On September 7, in his address to Rome’s clergy, John Paul I would temporarily abandon the text of his talk to declare with great emotion: «Two days ago, the Metropolitan of Leningrad died in Our arms. I was just replying to his address. I assure you that never in my life have I ever heard such beautiful words on the Church as his. I cannot repeat them; they remain a secret. I am still struck by them. He was an Orthodox, but how he loved the Church. I believe he suffered greatly for the Church in his enormous efforts for unity.»
The Abbé de Nantes saw in the mysterious death of the Metropolitan, absolved by John Paul I, a prophetic sign of the conversion of Russia through its return to the Church of Rome, as promised by Our Lady of Fatima (cf. chap. 9, appendix 2). The amazement of the Pope as he listened to such “beautiful words on the Church” is, moreover, an anticipation of the extraordinary impression that the miracle of Russia’s conversion will create throughout the whole world, an impression designed to make known the all-powerful Mediation of the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and therein to establish the reign of Her Immaculate Heart.
At his first general audience, on September 7, 1978, John Paul I invited up a small altar boy from Malta who had been serving Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica for a month. The Pope questioned him: «One day you will grow tall and your mother will grow old; she will be a poor sick lady in bed. Then who will bring her her milk and her medicine?» – «Me and my brothers.» – «Bravo! I like that answer. Our Lord has said that we must respect and love our parents, and just as much when they are old.»
«Let us try to make the Church better by becoming better ourselves. Every one of us and the whole Church could say this prayer which I often say: “Lord, take me as I am, with my faults and my failings, but make me become what You want me to be.”» (John Paul I, September 13, 1978; photo V. Rastelli/Corbis).
John Paul I, accompanied by Roman prelates, in the Vatican. On his right, Msgr. Jacques Martin, Prefect of the Pontifical House (photo Felici).
«John Paul I’s smile, his constant serenity, were not a natural gift; they were the fruit of his patience, his prayer and his intimacy with God.» (Don Andrich, Parish Priest of Canale d’Agordo)
As a curate, professor, bishop, patriarch, and finally pope, Albino Luciani always showed himself to be a good shepherd, just as capable of adopting a traditionalist position, if the faith or obedience to God demanded it, as of venturing to the extreme limits of tolerance if charity found something congenial therein that could be used to save misguided souls (photo Gamma).
Pope John Paul I on the sedia gestatoria.
«Loved in Belluno, happy in Vittorio Veneto, and hounded by the progressivist pack in Venice, Don Albino Luciani underwent in Rome the death of the Innocent.» (Georges de Nantes, November 1978; photo Keystone)
Sister Mary-Lucy of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.
At the Carmel of Fatima, May 13, 1991, before attending the pilgrimage ceremonies (photo Archives of the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart).
Sister Lucy and Pope John Paul II at the end of their private ten minute conversation on May 13, 1991. Details of their conversation – if it was a conversation! – have never been made public. Absolutely nothing has filtered through.
Certainly, in the 90’s, the holy Carmelite might well have repeated what she wrote to Father Aparicio in 1940: «As for the mission for which God has destined me in the world, I think it was not to be a prophet; but perhaps it was to cry out in the desert, where only God hears.» (Cartas, p. 92)
Sister Lucy, during the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger, in the chapel of the Coimbra Carmel, on October 14, 1996. The photograph was taken through the grille separating the nuns’ choir from the rest of the chapel. Lucy’s tragic expression reveals that she bore in her soul the pain of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Sister Lucy came to the city of Tuy in 1926 to make her novitiate with the Dorothean Sisters. It was here that the Holy Trinity and the Virgin of the Immaculate Heart descended on June 13, 1929, in an incomparable theophany.
At the end of her account, the seer would write: «I understood that I had been shown the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, and I received insights into this mystery that I am not permitted to reveal.»
During this apparition Our Lady requested that the Holy Father solemnly consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.
In the foreground, the valley of the Minho, the northern border of Portugal. In the middle ground, Tuy, ancient city of Spanish Galicia (photo CRC).
It was under the patronage of the beloved Pope John Paul I that the Abbé de Nantes placed the pilgrimage of his Phalangist Communion at Fatima, October 12 and 13, 1996. At the time he did not suspect the exact contents of the Third Secret. But he had already recognised in this good Pastor the chosen one of the Immaculate, and his portrait can be seen on one of the banners. Below, the prayer vigil at the Cova da Iria, October 12, 1996 (photos CRC).
Madam Maria Eugénia Pestana, during a parlour conversation with Sister Lucy in the Coimbra Carmel, on February 20, 2001, the liturgical feast of Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta (previously unpublished photograph). This was one of her last conversations with the seer, as Madam Pestana departed in the peace of God on December 27, 2001.
This personal friend of Lucy’s had continued to report right up to 1989 the latter’s negative judgements on the acts of offering the world carried out by John Paul II: they did not fulfil Heaven’s demands (cf. chapters 10 and 11).
Sister Lucy (on the left), on January 30, 2000, within the cloisters of the Coimbra Carmel (previously unpublished photograph taken from the Archives of the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart).
The seer never forgot Our Lady’s promise: «I will never abandon you! My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that will lead you to God.» (June 13, 1917)
«The Immaculate Heart of Mary is my refuge, especially in the most difficult hours. There I am always secure. It is the heart of the best of mothers; It is always attentive and It watches over the least of Its daughters. How this certainty encourages and comforts me! In Her I find strength and consolation. This Immaculate Heart is the channel through which God pours the multitude of His graces upon my soul. Help me to be grateful for this and to correspond to so many mercies.» (Letter from Sister Lucy to Father Aparicio, September 1, 1940)
«I believe that this promise is not for me alone, but for all souls who wish to find refuge in the Heart of their Mother in Heaven and to let themselves be guided along the paths mapped out by Her.» (Letter from Sister Lucy to Mother Cunha Matos, April 14, 1945)
«The Lord tells us that we shall be blessed if we are persecuted on His account, because the prophets before us were persecuted in a similar way. But why is it that those whom God has chosen for a special mission, and with whom He is in more direct contact, are persecuted and oppressed? It is the continuation of the mystery of the Cross which marks out for us the path to Heaven.» (Sister Lucy, Calls from the Message of Fatima, p. 202)
This list could not leave Pope John Paul I indifferent. «He had an aversion to Freemasonry», notes Camillo Bassotto. «It was almost an idée fixe, a kind of distrust that I would term instinctive.106»
He consulted Cardinal Felici who advised him that this list had been circulating in Rome for several years and that «it needed to be examined carefully and with prudence. Among the 121 prelates accused, some were certainly Masons, others were not.» His adviser told him a significant fact concerning Villot: the Secretary of State was one of the most active proponents of relaxing the canonical penalties against Roman Catholics who became Freemasons107.
In short, John Paul I sought the advice of his friend so that he might prepare within the Curia a number of enforced resignations, liberating transfers and honest appointments.
However, the mafiosi of the “P2 Lodge”, particularly Calvi, had anticipated these sanctions ever since the Patriarch of Venice had been elevated to the See of Peter. «Calvi», writes Yallop, «was fully aware of the anger his takeover of the Banca Cattolica del Veneto had generated in Venice; aware that Luciani had gone to Rome in an attempt to regain diocesan control over the bank. He was equally aware that Luciani was a man with a formidable reputation for personal poverty and intransigence towards clerical wheeler dealing. The episode of the two priests and the speculating salesman in Vittorio Veneto was legendary in northern Italy.108»
At last, «Calvi heard the news he had been dreading. Bishop Paul Marcinkus’s days were numbered.109» Turning to Licio Gelli, he confided his fears. «As they conversed in a variety of South American cities, Roberto Calvi felt some relief. Gelli had reassured him. The “problem” could and would be resolved.110»
The Abbé de Nantes writes: «It reminds one of that verse from Saint Mark’s Gospel: “Then the Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against Him, discussing how to destroy Him”, Him, Jesus (Mk 3:6). And that was right at the beginning of His ministry...111»
The assassination of John Paul I was planned and organised with the complicity of Cardinal Villot: «It was Licio Gelli who was the initiator and overall organizer of the crime, Roberto Calvi was his partner and it was to cost him dearly, more and more dearly, to the point where he could take no more and he also had to be suicided. The executor of the crime was some hitman who had received the contract of his life from an agent of Ortolani’s in the Via Archimede. The whole of this little world, consisting of the mafia, the underworld, the bank and Vatican village, is now well known to us. And Marcinkus? Ah, Marcinkus! He was biding his time and waiting...112»
The murder, remarks Yallop, was executed by stealth so that public questions and anxiety would be reduced to a minimum. «The most efficient way to kill the Pope was by poison – a poison that when administered would leave no tell-tale external signs. Research indicates that there are over two hundred such drugs which would fulfil the task. The drug digitalis is but one of this number...113»
Since his election to the sovereign pontificate, John Paul I had never displayed any especial fatigue, despite his new responsibilities. This is one of the reasons why Edoardo Luciani said his brother had an «iron constitution»114.
Doctor Antonio da Ros, his private doctor, who had examined him regularly for almost twenty years, certified that «he was not unwell»115.
On September 3, the day of his enthronement, the doctor gave him his “usual check-up” and took his blood pressure. The next day he told Edoardo Luciani that the Pope «was in excellent health»116. He examined him again on September 13 and then on the 23rd. «Your heart is fine»117, he told him on that last visit of his.
Four days later, on Wednesday 27, John Paul I gave an audience to Msgr. Giuseppe Bosa, his former vicar general, who was temporarily managing the Venice Patriarchate. «The Pope», he would relate, «seemed to be in good health.118» Yes, he was just like he was in Venice, «he was not suffering from any illness»119.
Msgr. Bosa, who had seen him governing for almost ten years, knew his determination and firmness in executing any difficult project or unpopular decision. «His mind was as strong, as hard and as sharp as a diamond. That was where his real power lay. He possessed the ability to get to the core of problems. He did not allow himself to be overwhelmed. While everyone was cheering the smiling Pope, I was waiting for him to reveal his claws (tirare fuori le unghie).120» Such were the thoughts of Msgr. Bosa on September 27.
Well, it was precisely on the very next day that John Paul I did reveal his claws.
He was about to
undertake a profound reform of the Roman Church, the sick head of a large
SEPTEMBER 28, 1978: THE REGAL COUP
On that day, before his audiences began, the Holy Father signed a letter addressed to a German Bishop, Msgr. Hugo Aufderbeck, on the occasion of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the Church of Saint Severus in Erfurt. In it he referred to the blessed life in Heaven, as though the hope of arriving there one day was his principal consolation – and this at a time when he was about to confront corrupt and rebellious senior Roman prelates:
«These stones speak of the faith and devotion of the ancients, and they urge Christ’s faithful today to keep intact that sacred heritage and to translate it into practice in their lives. Furthermore, let those who visit this sacred place endeavour themselves to be “spiritual homes” (cf. 1 Peter 2:5) indwelt by God through His grace in such wise that these words of Saint Augustine may be applied to them: “God dwells... in each person as He does in His churches and in everyone gathered together in unity, as in His Church” (Ep. 187, 13, 38; PL 33, 84, 7).
«In due course this church introduces into men’s hearts a desire for that home above, where they can enjoy for ever those blessings that neither the vision of the eyes can embrace nor the ears perceive, and which no thought can elucidate; yes, we receive from God “a home not made by human hands, an everlasting home in Heaven” (2 Co 5:1).
«In truth, what gives this short and often arduous pilgrimage on earth its real importance is that blessed life without end, for which we sigh in our distress and which we must never forget in our joy.121»
In the course of the morning John Paul I received Cardinal Bernardin Gantin along with members of the Cor Unum association. «As soon as we entered his office», the Cardinal would relate, «the Pope immediately came to receive us. I found him very lively, very engaging, very attentive. He moved a few chairs around himself in order to position us for the photograph. He was in great form from what I could see.122»
Then he received Msgr. Rocco, the Nuncio to Brazil. «I found the Holy Father in perfect health», he would confide. «I would even go further: I was struck by his energy, and I marvelled at his perfect knowledge of Brazil’s problems. To look at him, I would not have believed he was sixty-five.123»
In his speech to the Philippine bishops, who were making their ad limina visit that day, the Holy Father spoke again of Christian hope and its foundations, as if his heart and soul were wholly occupied with the thought of eternal blessings. He must clearly have had a presentiment that the hour of his ultimate sacrifice was approaching.
«Our message must be a clear proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ. Along with Peter we must say to Christ, and in the presence of our people, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:69) For us, evangelisation implies a specific teaching about the Name of Jesus, His identity, His words, His Kingdom and His promises. And His chief promise is eternal life. Jesus truly has the words that lead us to eternal life.
«Very recently, in an audience, we spoke to the faithful about eternal life. We are convinced that it is necessary to emphasise the eternal life if our message is to be complete and if we are to model our teaching upon that of Jesus.124»
At the end of the morning, he gave the first of the two dreaded audiences. He received Cardinal Baggio who was contesting his choice of episcopal appointments. The Holy Father informed him that Cardinal Cody, the scandalous Archbishop of Chicago, would be removed from office without delay. As for him, Baggio, he was to be relieved of his job as Prefect of the Consistorial Congregation: the Pope was appointing him Patriarch of Venice. The Cardinal was furious and refused to leave Rome. «The meeting between Baggio and Luciani», writes Yallop, «has been described to me as “a very violent argument with the violence and anger entirely deriving from His Eminence. The Holy Father remained calm.”125»
After lunch and a short siesta, John Paul I remained in his apartments. He paced up and down the sitting room saying his Rosary: he prayed for the souls of the corpses he had been meeting, ever since his arrival in the Vatican, on his way.
The interview with Cardinal Villot took place late in the afternoon. John Paul I had studied his report on the Vatican Bank. First decision: Marcinkus was to be replaced with Msgr. Abbo, a man of integrity. Not in a month, nor in a week. The very next day. All of Marcinkus’s mafia were to be dismissed, and all ties with Sindona’s and Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano group had to be cut as soon as possible.
Then the Holy Father informed him of his determination to see Baggio go where he was told to go... But the Sovereign Judge had not finished yet: he, Villot, would be replaced as Secretary of State by Cardinal Benelli126.
As the Abbé de Nantes writes, «never had such an act of authority been seen since Saint Pius X. Pius X, seventy-five years earlier, demolishing the formidable Secretary of State of his predecessor Leo XIII, the Freemason Cardinal Rampolla!127»
Cardinal Villot pretended to reflect deeply at this regal blow, this quiet thrust which had completely unseated him and deprived him of all his powers at the same time. «I thought you were considering Casaroli as my replacement?» With Casaroli there would be no getting away from the mafia... Cardinal Villot objected that these appointments were contrary to the late Holy Father’s wishes and would be seen as a disavowal of his papacy: «It will be said that you betrayed Paul.128»
John Paul I remained unshakeable.
That evening he dined as usual with his two secretaries, Father John Magee and Don Diego Lorenzi.
«I had decided», Father Magee relates, «to remind the Pope over dinner that he had to choose a preacher for the Lenten spiritual exercises in good time. “Yes, yes I’ve already taken that in hand, everything’s fine. But the retreat I’d like to make at the moment is a retreat to prepare me for a good death.” It was 8.15 p.m. I ventured to reply, “Surely not, Holy Father.” I was still feeling the death of Paul VI and I didn’t want to hear any more about death. But he went on: “Yes, yes, that is the kind of retreat I need.” Don Diego uttered a prayer, but the Pope pulled him up: “No, those aren’t exactly the right words. The correct words of that prayer are, O my God, give me the grace to accept death in whatever form it should strike me.”129»
After dinner, at 8.45 p.m., the Holy Father had a telephone conversation with Cardinal Colombo of Milan regarding the changes he had announced to Cardinals Baggio and Villot: «He spoke to me for a long time in a completely normal tone from which no physical illness could be inferred. He was full of serenity and hope. His final salutation was “pray”.130»
Before retiring to bed, John Paul I took a telephone call from his doctor, Antonio da Ros. Fifteen years later, in order to put an end to all the lies, the latter testified that the Holy Father was in good health: «I chatted with him, but I also conversed with Sister Vincenza Taffarel, his nurse. She didn’t mention any special problems.131»
The Abbé de Nantes writes: «Undoubtedly Cardinal Villot also made a telephone call that evening. One is curious to know to whom. To Marcinkus? Most assuredly! For the cornered mafia, the matter was decided; the Italian solution would have to be applied to John Paul I immediately if they wished to avoid prison, violent death or obligatory suicide.
«At 9.30 p.m., Albino Luciani bade his secretaries goodnight: “Buona notte.
A domani. Se Dio vuole! Until tomorrow. If God wishes!” But God had
something higher in mind for his
«HE WAS KILLED...»
On Friday, September 29, Sister Vincenza entered the Holy Father’s bedroom at 4.45 a.m. and found him dead in his bathroom, according to the breathless information she gave a group of pilgrims from whom the Abbé de Nantes obtained this information on November 6 following133. Immediately afterwards, Cardinal Villot forced Sister Vincenza to swear an oath of silence! That is why she followed the official version and told David Yallop that she had found the Pope in his bed.
At 5 a.m. Cardinal Villot noted the death and began to take over in a manner that was illegal, exclusive and methodical. Illegal because, without any mandate, he had assumed the powers of Camerlengo134. He acted imperturbably, according to a premeditated plan and with a firm determination to do whatever was needed despite a thousand and one difficulties.
He pocketed the bottle of Effortil on the bedside table, took from the Holy Father’s clenched hands his notes on the appointments and transfers decided on the previous day, and carried off the Holy Father’s glasses and slippers, which were probably soiled with vomit.135
It seems that he made his Will vanish as well.
Unbelievably, at precisely 5 a.m., a Vatican car drew up outside the door of the embalmers, the Signoracci brothers136. The car must have left to pick them up even before John Paul I had expired, or at least as soon as he was dead. «I have interviewed both brothers at length on three separate occasions», David Yallop relates. «They are adamant that death occurred between 4.00 a.m. and 5.00 a.m.137»
Cardinal Villot wanted the body embalmed at once or at least that John Paul I’s face be remodelled while it was still warm. «Officially the Vatican created the impression that the body of Pope John Paul I was embalmed before being put on public display in the Sala Clementina.138» In short, this was a deliberate ploy: thanks to this ruse Villot had a pretext for dismissing and rejecting any demand for an autopsy.
At 6 a.m., Doctor Buzzonetti, who was not the head of the medical service, certified the death, but failed to draw up a death certificate. He attributed it to acute myocardial infarction and put the time of death at around 11 p.m. the previous evening. This declaration was made to order and clearly had no medical value.
The self-styled head of the Church began to alert the cardinals from about 6.30 a.m., around two hours therefore after the telephone call to the Institute of Medicine advising the embalmers. These latter took priority over the sacraments, over the cardinals, and over Doctor Fontana, the head of the medical service.
Ignoring Villot’s orders to the contrary, Don Lorenzi telephoned Doctor Antonio Da Ros, who was «shocked, stunned»139 to learn of the Holy Father’s sudden death in such strange circumstances. He decided to leave immediately for Rome so that he might examine the body.
Another unplanned incident: Sergeant Roggan, who was on duty that night, suddenly found himself face to face with Msgr. Marcinkus on the premises at 6.45 a.m., at a time and a place where he had no reason to be. The “Gorilla” did not even blink when the Swiss Guard, thinking he was giving him news, told him of the Pope’s death.
The world was advised at 7.30 a.m. in a lying official bulletin140 which was immediately criticised severely by eminent Roman professors, as we shall see further on.
According to this bulletin, remarks Yallop, «officially at least, the Vatican did not know when Luciani died or what killed him. “Presumably towards 11 o’clock” and “sudden death that could be attributed to severe myocardial infarction” are statements that clearly demonstrate a high degree of ignorance, of presumptions and assumptions. The body of a beggar found in the gutters of Rome would be accorded a greater degree of professional care and attention. The scandal is all the greater when one is aware that these examining doctors had never medically cared for the living Albino Luciani.141»
At 10.30 in the morning, the body was transferred to the chapelle ardente in the Clementina Hall. There the faithful went to shed their tears, whilst on the third floor of the papal palace some feverish activity was taking place: under Villot’s orders, the Sisters had cleaned and polished in order to remove all traces of footsteps, fingerprints, and vomit. «Everything belonging to Albino Luciani was removed», states Yallop, «including his letters, notes, books, and the small handful of personal mementoes such as the photograph of his parents with an infant Pia. Villot’s colleagues from the Secretariat of State removed all the confidential papers. Rapidly all material evidence that Albino Luciani had ever lived and worked there was boxed and carried away. By 6.00 p.m. the entire 19 rooms of the Papal Apartments were totally bereft of anything remotely associated with the Papacy of Luciani. It was as if he had never been there, never existed.142» Cardinal Villot sealed the apartment doors after having made every compromising object disappear: supreme deception!
The Abbé de Nantes writes, «The supposed interim head of the Church and Vatican State then joined the lords of the day, the Signoracci brothers, to direct and supervise their work. They had doubtless demanded this minimum twelve-hour delay so as not to infringe Italian law too blatantly. But what a strange and repugnant embalming they were made to do! Never in their lives and never in the long tradition of papal embalmings143 had such a horror been ordered or executed. At the Vatican’s insistence not one drop of blood was taken from the body, nor were any organs removed.
«The reason for keeping inside the body those elements of certain corruption, namely the entrails and the blood, is only too easily understood. The Signoracci brothers, alas, are men hardened against any scruple or emotion144. For us, and even more certainly for them as well, here lay the formal, indisputable and sufficient proof of Cardinal Secretary of State Jean Villot’s free, conscious and active participation in the assassination of Pope John Paul I: “A small quantity of blood would of course have been more than sufficient for a forensic scientist to establish the presence of any poisonous substances.145” As for the entrails, if the Signoracci brothers had, as is customary, removed them prior to the embalming, these would have been available to the autopsy which Jean Villot had so vigorously refused throughout the the whole of that day.146»
«For men with nothing to hide», David Yallop remarks, «the actions of Villot and other members of the Roman Curia continued to be incomprehensible. When men conspire to cover up, it is inexorably because there is something to cover.
«It was from a Cardinal residing in Rome that I learned of the most extraordinary reason given for the cover up: “Villot told me that what had occurred was a tragic accident. That the Pope had unwittingly taken an overdose of his medicine. The Camerlengo pointed out that if an autopsy were performed, it would obviously show this fatal overdose. No one would believe that His Holiness had taken it accidentally. Some would allege suicide, others murder. It was agreed that there would be no autopsy.”147»
Several Roman professors, including Angelo Fiori, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Gemelli Polyclinic, were insisting on an autopsy and openly criticising the Vatican’s official bulletin announcing the death: «It is dangerous to automatically attribute sudden deaths to myocardial infarction.148»
They were supported, in Spain, by Professor Gambra from the University of Madrid and, in France, by Professor Milliez from the Broussais Hospital: «I regret», declared the latter, «that the Vatican is unable to understand the medical and moral interest in an autopsy carried out by the most qualified Italian doctors.149» Several cardinals passed the same request to the Vatican, some, like Cardinal Benelli, discreetly, others in an official manner: «The Bishop of Cuernavaca, Mendez Arceo, publicly demanded, along with Cardinal Miranda, that an autopsy take place.150»
Such an examination of a Pope’s body would not have been a novelty. After Pius VIII died on November 30, 1830, because some people were talking of poisoning, an autopsy was carried out on his mortal remains, beginning the very next day.
On October 1, 1978, the Corriere della Sera published a sensational article entitled “Why refuse an autopsy?” The author Carlo Bo explained that this refusal was indefensible: «It is legitimate to know for certain why the Pope died.151» Furthermore, Franco Antico, Secretary of the Association Civilta Cristiana, sent the Promoter of Justice of Vatican State an official request for a full judicial enquiry into the death of the Holy Father152.
But Cardinal Villot and Cardinal Confalonieri, the Dean of the Sacred College,
remained obstinately deaf to these requests.
PRIEST AND VICTIM LIKE JESUS CHRIST
Recalling the mystery of John Paul I’s death, Don Luigi Guissani declared, «God willed the sacrifice of this man I believe; for his death was a real sacrifice, and perhaps we will only know at the end of the world just just how much of a martyr he really was.153» When Don Guissani wrote these lines, John Paul I’s martyrdom still remained a secret in the Church, but it was a secret that Our Heavenly Father wanted revealed to the world, and this He did on June 26, 2000: through the publication of the Secret of Fatima, the Virgin Mary Herself, in all Her supernatural plenitude, revealed the drama lived out by Her chosen one, the innocent victim killed by his brothers. It was prefigured in the symbolic vision of July 13, 1917:
«... Having reached the summit of the mountain, falling on his knees at the foot of the large Cross, he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him.»
The death of the Bishop dressed in White is a redemptive sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd giving his life for his sheep – like Jesus Christ, King, Priest and Victim – for the salvation of the world.
The vision of the Secret thus confirms that interpretation of the beloved Pope John Paul I’s death that had been suggested and developed by the Abbé de Nantes ever since the autumn of 1978:
«This sudden death is not a sign of chastisement as one publicist ventures to write. According to him, it was because we all sinned against the Spirit, both modernists and traditionalists – let him tell us rather how he himself has sinned, as that would certainly be more instructive. We are supposed to have shown ourselves unworthy of such a gift from God; so He withdrew him from our midst. What folly are these grandiloquent reminders of God’s Wrath at a time when, on the contrary, everyone feels touched by a mysterious grace, sanctified by the passing of this innocent lamb, and moved in a holy manner by the sacrifice of the very Good Shepherd who gave his life for his flock and whose sacrifice was accepted.
«And if, during those thirty-three days, we all felt ourselves to be brothers, reconciled by him, it was not in disorder or in impiety, but on the contrary in a renewed fervour, a trust in God, and filial obedience to our common Father. The leaders of our local circles were already reporting that parishes, priests, monasteries, and the Catholic press had been returning to the pure religion of former times, a return that was not enforced, but spontaneous and joyous. So there is nothing to alarm us in the death of the Just One. On the contrary, this sacrifice of expiation and propitiation is a sign of mercy, a rainbow of peace.
«But he departed before he had done his work, you say! Before he had even indicated the direction his papacy would take, having had time for nothing except to win everyone’s hearts, and leaving behind him a feeling of regret, poignant and desolate because empty of any intellectual content. This is not true at all. He left his holy mark on the papacy, he cleansed it of its recent past and, in his death, he has made all things new in the Church. He will be quickly forgotten, will he not? That is true, I know; the modern world has no memory; it is only interested in the present, but the soul of the Church is faithful... And if he works miracles, which would not at all surprise me, and which in fact I expect and hope for, he will continue to speak in his death, cf. Hb 11:4 [...].
«On the strength of his past I immediately hailed John Paul I as A Saint Pius X without knowing it154, and I was preparing to write the chronicle of the first astonishing month of his reign under the premonitory title The Victim Pope in order to reveal, even at that stage, what was brewing. The sacrifice came rather more quickly and rather differently from the way I was about to describe it, but the reality of the sacrifice and the holiness of the victim are no less apparent for that, and the effects are decisive.
«The whole of this short papacy is bathed in a sweet mystery of divine grace and holiness which has already repaid us more than abundantly for our twenty years of sorrow. It seems that Christ decided to take His Church in hand Himself, and the first thing He did was to send us saints. Albino Luciani means white light, the lunar splendour which shines in the night and illuminates it with a beauty that it owes entirely to the sun whose reflection it is. Such was the humility of him who owned that he was not the light, but wanted only to be among us as its mirror. Such was the wisdom of a Vicar of Christ who wanted to know nothing among us but Jesus and Jesus Crucified, dispensing with all those human considerations that were choking, darkening and besotting the Church: “It is Christ alone that we must present to the world.”
«No one disputes that everything was hallowed during those thirty-three days; and how edifying, consoling and delightful it is to meditate upon that period today. It began when Cardinal Felici offered him that image of the Way of the Cross on the evening of Saturday, August 26, just after he had secured the majority of the votes, and it ended on the night of September 28 when, his hour having come, his hands rested on his bedside book, The Imitation of Christ, now no longer of use to him155. Between those two days we witnessed the charity of his continuous self-donation to the Church, for “in her alone is found salvation: sine illa peritur! without her we perish!” (speech of August 27), a charity seen in the smile of his face and the agony of his heart, an agony he confessed two days earlier to some children who were dreaming of becoming Pope, just like him! “My dear children, the cross of Christ is truly too heavy.”
«We are bathed in the signs of an invisible predestination. The thirty-three days match Christ’s thirty-three years. And this papacy began at the very same hour when there was taking place in Turin the opening ceremony of the exhibition of the Holy Shroud, on which can be seen the sacred humanity of Our Lord in His death and resurrection, an exhibition which would terminate at the same time as the papacy, each having drawn the same flocks of pilgrims, the same astonishing crowds, testifying to the fact that both the love of Christ and the love of the Church are equally vibrant in the world today [...].
«For myself, I interpret the death of John Paul I as a holocaust accepted by God for the salvation of His Church and the peace of the world. Similarly, that other mysterious death, that of the Patriarch of Leningrad who died in the Pope’s study, indeed in his very arms, after having received absolution from him, appears to me a prophetic sign of Russia’s conversion through the return of the Communists to the true faith and the reunion of the Eastern schismatics with the Church of Rome. For Nikodim was a Communist, a KGB agent, who had the grace to become a fervent Orthodox and was so consumed by his international responsibilities that he ardently desired that Christian unity which God allowed him to live out in his death, a death which put the seal of authenticity on his last words, words of love for the Church156!
«There is nothing to be afraid of in such deaths. On the contrary, they speak of God’s mercy and of that time of peace which, at the prayers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Father in Heaven will grant to the world, through the conversion of Russia and the renaissance and universal extension of the Roman Catholic faith, in the great labour of the Sun.157»
For this great labour to be accomplished, however, it would be necessary for the successor of the holy Pope John Paul I to honour and venerate his memory, to continue his work of purifying and reforming the Church in her Roman head, and to display a true devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. A Pope aflame with love for the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a Pope who accepted the divine plan with a childlike docility, would see his works sanctified and made fruitful by the blood of the first martyr Pope of modern times, in keeping with the vision of the Secret:
«Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.»
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE VATICAN NOTE CONCERNING DAVID YALLOP’S REVELATIONS
N May 1984, after three years of secret investigation, David Yallop revealed in his book In God’s Name1 – translated into eleven languages, with six million copies printed – the true reasons and circumstances behind the death of John Paul I on the night of September 28 to 29, 1978. In this book, the origins of the conspiracy and the motives of the assassins were fully exposed.
To defuse and dismiss the accusations publicly brought by Yallop against the most senior prelates in the Vatican, an official of the Roman Curia, Msgr. Giulio Nicolini, immediately made a declaration intended to have the widest publicity: «When Mr Yallop states that the cardinals kept silent about the true causes of the death of John Paul I, he is in effect accusing the entire Sacred College, including Pope John Paul II, of murder. It is crazy.2»
The scandal was indeed immense. The Abbé de Nantes drew attention to it in
his first review of the book: «All the articles devoted to it, whatever
be the tendencies of their authors, conclude that “the affair merits the opening of
an official enquiry”. That much is self-evident.3»
Nevertheless, no commission of enquiry would be instituted. But in order to guide those
who mould public opinion, a Vatican note, written by Msgr. Nicolini, would be
sent, during the summer, to nunciatures and episcopal conferences throughout the world4.
To our knowledge, this was the sole official response to the accusations
published by David Yallop. Therefore we must examine it closely.
FINANCIAL CORRUPTION IN THE VATICAN
The note contained no denial of the fraudulent transactions and financial malpractice carried out by the mafia to whom Pope Paul VI had consigned the very clerical Banco Ambrosiano of Milan and even the Vatican Bank, the Institute of Religious Works. So the Abbé de Nantes’ observations had been proved correct and remain so even today: «Incontestable, and moreover uncontested to this day, are David Yallop’s revelations concerning the finances and financiers of the Vatican, concerning “Vatican Incorporated”.5»
The English investigator’s demonstration was implacable, and remains so, because his account did not stop on September 29, 1978. The fact is that Licio Gelli and his accomplices were bound up in a web of crimes both before and after the assassination of John Paul I . «Liquidating the Pope provided a breathing space», observed the Abbé de Nantes. «Business could continue as usual, but it was going badly. Ever since the crack Sindona of 1974, things had been taking a giddy and extremely dangerous turn from one month to the next. The P2 Lodge had to expend ever more effort and funds just to ensure that things ran smoothly between Vatican Incorporated and the Ambrosiano. Systematic blackmail and corruption ensued, followed unhappily by the Italian Solution, which consists in creating a climate of intimidation through murder, sometimes killing a magistrate who wanted to know too much, sometimes a troublesome detective or an imprudent mafioso.6»
Going right up to 1984, Yallop established a truly staggering list of assaults, blackmail and assassinations committed by Gelli and his associates to slow down, if not entirely halt, the legal proceedings being brought against them. He describes the precise circumstances of the murders and publishes photographs of the victims.
The headlong flight of these high-flying crooks was particularly apparent in Roberto Calvi’s “suicide”: «“He began”, writes Yallop, “as a servant, then became a master, only to become the servant of other masters later on”. As we know, on June 17, 1982, “the body of Roberto Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in the City of London”. His accounts revealed “a 1.3 billion dollar hole”, the equivalent of the first instalment of aid that he had requested from Marcinkus, but which was not forthcoming. Calvi’s widow laid the blame for his death at the door of Bishop Marcinkus, which was doubtless a way for her to avoid Gelli’s deadly anger and fury, and perhaps even a way of continuing to serve him.7»
The proceedings tarnished Msgr. Marcinkus: «By September 1982, he had virtually become a prisoner in the Vatican. The Pope appointed him “Governor of Vatican City” to explain this voluntary state of imprisonment, this immobilisation of the very prelate who had formerly organized and accompanied all His Holiness’ journeys. “He survives, he is still hiding in the Vatican, fearful of emerging in case of being immediately arrested by the Italian authorities.” His right-hand men have done the same as he, transforming the Papal State into a refuge for international crooks. They have recently received long-term prison sentences for just one of the affairs in which the Vatican Bank is implicated.8»
Yallop proved he was telling the truth by announcing future
events... which have come to pass! The heinous crimes and legal
proceedings brought against these mafiosi during the years 85 to 90,
i.e. following the publication of Yallop’s book, provided indubitable and horrifying
confirmation of our courageous investigator’s revelations and accusations. The
financial police and the Italian justice system were tightening their net around these
criminals: Sindona, condemned to life imprisonment, poisoned himself in
prison in March 1986. Licio Gelli, sentenced to eighteen years in prison in
1992, was on the run for years, eventually being arrested in Cannes on September
10, 1998. As for Msgr. Marcinkus, in 1987, he had gone to ground in the Vatican while the
Holy See appealed to clauses in the Lateran Treaty for their refusal to hand him
over to the Milanese judges.9
CARDINAL VILLOT’S ACTIVITIES
The Vatican note drawn up by Msgr. Nicolini failed to provide any justification for Cardinal Villot’s criminal activities from the moment Sister Vincenza discovered John Paul I, either in his final agony or already dead. So Yallop’s detailed proof of murder stands unrefuted:
«Certainly his [Villot’s] subsequent actions were those of a man determined to cover up the truth of that death... If Luciani died naturally, the subsequent actions and instructions given by Villot are completely inexplicable. His behaviour only becomes understandable when related to one specific conclusion. Either Cardinal Jean Villot was part of a conspiracy to murder the Pope, or he saw clear evidence in the Papal bedroom indicating the Pope had been murdered...10»
Note that our investigator aptly pre-empted a criticism that could have been levied against him (although in reality it does not affect his demonstration): «Doubtless it will be observed by some», he writes, «that much of the evidence already adduced is of a circumstantial nature. When one is dealing with murder, the evidence is very frequently entirely circumstantial. Men and women who plan murder are not given to announcing their intentions on the front page of The Times or Le Monde or the Washington Post. It is relatively rare for independent observers to be present and in a position to offer incontrovertible evidence.11»
Fr. Jesus Lopez Saez, a Spanish priest with a degree in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, took up, continued and completed the English investigator’s enquiry. He remarks: «At the end of almost three years of research, Yallop writes that the precise circumstances accompanying the discovery of John Paul I’s remains “eloquently demonstrate that the Vatican practiced a disinformation campaign.” The Vatican told one lie after another: “Lies about little things, lies about big things. All these lies had but one purpose: to disguise the fact that Albino Luciani had been assassinated.” John Paul I “received the palm of martyrdom because of his convictions.”
«In short, there is a great deal of evidence (facts, clues,
signs) for this conclusion: a death arranged at the opportune moment. If the
death of John Paul I was the effect of natural causes, then many things remain
inexplicable, but if it was arranged, then everything is explained.12»
THE REQUESTS OF THE CARDINALS
The Vatican note claims that «the cardinals, gathered daily in congregation to prepare for the conclave, had seen no reason to contest the report of Doctor Renato Buzzonetti, the head of the Vatican health service, a report concluding in favour of a natural death»13.
The truth is just the opposite. On October 8, La Stampa revealed that «the cardinals gathered in congregation had taken account of the questions raised by the public, questions prompted by the official notification of death, by the absence of a medical certificate, and by the Vatican’s refusal to carry out an autopsy. They wanted the Vatican to announce, through its official organs, the exact circumstances of the Pontiff’s death»14.
Moreover, it is well known that «at the meeting of the congregation
of cardinals which took place
on October 9th, their unease surfaced. Cardinal Villot in particular found
himself under attack. As Camerlengo he had taken the decisions and authorized the
statements which clearly indicated that the death of Luciani had been followed by a
cover-up. Many of the non-Italian Princes of the Church demanded to know exactly
what was being covered up. They wanted to know why the cause
of death had not been precisely ascertained and why it had merely been presumed. They
wanted to know
why there was not greater clarification about the time of death. Why a doctor had
not taken official responsibility in putting his name to a death certificate
that could be made public. They were unsuccessful in their efforts to obtain
Pope John Paul I and Cardinal Villot (photo Corbis).
«The pontificate of John
Paul I lasted only a month, but its influence was immense. It would make
itself felt for a long time and perhaps even more strongly. It would be
good to raise John Paul I to the altars, as this would answer the holy
people’s unanimous wishes and do him justice, confound his
treacherous enemies, and restore the Church’s true freedom as the handmaid of
Christ the Son of God.» (Georges de Nantes, November 1978)
NO CARDIAC PROBLEM: «YOUR HEART IS FINE.»
According to the Vatican note, «the Pope’s health was very fragile»16. Furthermore, in his record of death, Doctor Buzzonetti presumed that John Paul I had died of an acute myocardial infarction.
We know that in 1956 the Consistorial in Rome refused to elevate Don Luciani to the episcopate on the grounds that his health was «precarious». An objection which seemed groundless to Msgr. Muccin, the Bishop of Belluno: «Between 1949 and 1956 Don Luciani did not spend a single day in bed.17»
Professor Rama’s judgement is very representative of the testimonies gathered by Yallop. Having treated Cardinal Luciani when he was suffering from a blood clot in the central vein of the retina of his left eye, in December 1975, the Professor told Yallop: «He was never what one would call a “physical colossus”, but he was fundamentally healthy and the tests carried out on several occasions never revealed any heart problems.18» Doctor Carlo Frizziero of Venice stated: «His low blood pressure should, at least in theory, have made him safe from acute cardio-vascular attacks.19»
We must also cite the testimony of Msgr. Senigaglia who was Msgr. Luciani’s secretary between 1970 and 1976: «Albino Luciani did not have a bad heart. Someone with a bad heart does not climb mountains, as the Patriarch did every year with me, between 1972 and 1977. We would go to Pietralba, near Bolzano, and we would climb the Corno Bianco, from 1,500 metres to 2,400 metres, at a good speed... There was never a sign of cardiac insufficiency. On the contrary, on my insistence, in 1974 an electrocardiogram was carried out, which recorded nothing irregular. Immediately before leaving for the conclave in August 1978 and following his visit to the Stella Maris clinic, he had a full medical check-up. The results were favourable in all respects. As for the theory of stress or exhaustion, it’s nonsense. His working day in the Vatican was no longer than here in Venice, and in the Vatican he had many more assistants, a great deal more help.20»
As for Edoardo Luciani, John Paul I’s brother, he would declare in 1993: «As for Albino’s health, too many false or at least exaggerated things have been said and written about it. I would like to say that he had an iron constitution. I was an artilleryman, of robust health, but I could never have sustained the rhythm of his daily life when he was Patriarch of Venice: getting up at 4.30 in the morning and working a full day right up to 10.30 in the evening.21»
The testimony of Doctor Antonio da Ros, his doctor during the last twenty years of his life, is critical. After having examined the Pope on Saturday, September 23, 1978, he would declare: «Your heart is fine.»
If Doctor da Ros decided to go public in 199322, it was because, as he himself would say, «too many lies have been written about the health of John Paul I». He went on to mention the telephone conversation he had had with the Holy Father on September 28, 1978, at 9 p.m.: “I chatted with the Pope, but I also spoke with Sister Vincenza Taffarel, who was the Holy Father’s nurse and looked after him... Everything was normal. Sister Vincenza did not speak to me of any particular problems. She told me that the Pope had passed the day in his usual manner.»
The journalist went on to put this question to Doctor da Ros: «In 1982, in a television broadcast, John Paul I’s secretary revealed that he had felt a strong pain in his chest late in the afternoon of September 28. Didn’t the Pope mention on the telephone?
– I was actually very surprised when I heard Don Lorenzi’s declaration. On September 28, 1978, at 9 p.m., no one said anything to me about such symptoms.23»
Msgr. Nicolini claims that «John Paul I had complained of having swollen ankles»24.
Msgr. John Magee, one of John Paul I’s two private secretaries, denounced the erroneous character of this allegation: «During his Papacy this business of leg swelling did not occur.25» As for Doctor Antonio da Ros, he provided the following information on this point: «I had not observed such a marked swelling. Someone who remains seated all day and who leads a sedentary life can sustain a slowing of circulation. We had agreed that he would go for a short walk every day in the terraced garden.26»
Msgr. Nicolini continues: «John Paul I’s close relations have not expressed the slightest doubt about the causes of his death.27»
This affirmation is incorrect. In his book Lettres de Rome sur le singulier trépas de Jean-Paul Ier (Letters from Rome on the remarkable demise of John Paul I), published in 1981, Jean-Jacques Thierry reported their queries and their suspicions: «However one looks at it, the testimony of the Luciani family strongly militates against the thesis of cardiac failure. The Pope’s sister, Amelia, is categorical: “My brother did not have a heart condition. Perhaps he died of an apoplexy, but not of heart failure.” And she added: “I would have liked there to have been an autopsy, and the whole family are of my opinion.” Edoardo Luciani backs his sister up unreservedly.28»
So Msgr. Nicolini’s note, published in 1984 by the Vatican to
scotch David Yallop’s accusations, contains a whole string of falsehoods.
CORNWELL’S ABERRATIONS DENOUNCED BY FR. SAEZ
Three years later, in 1987, Msgr. John Foley, president of the Vatican Commission for Social Communications, encouraged and openly assisted John Cornwell – an English writer and ex-seminarian become an apostate – to carry out a new investigation into the death of John Paul I. Cornwell amassed a variety of contradictory testimonies, failing to secure guarantees of veracity for any of them. He took no heed of Yallop’s warning: «You have been dealing with people who have been lying to you. I know that, after the publication of my book, the embalmers, the Signoracci brothers, basked in the importance lavished on them by the Vatican authorities, just like so many others. The only reason they wanted to talk to you is because someone had telephoned them. They were told exactly what they should or should not say to you.29»
Cornwell put forward a deceitful reconstruction: he made out that John Paul I was seriously ill and depressed, and he assumed that he died a natural death after a few painful last moments.
In his book Se pedira cuenta; You will be held to account30, Fr. Jesus Lopez Saez demonstrates that Cornwell’s thesis is aberrant and indefensible. Let us recall some of his conclusions which agree with and confirm those of Yallop.
«Sister Vincenza, who discovered the body of John Paul I, was forced to keep silent by the Secretariat of State. “But the world must know the truth”, she told a trustworthy person who communicated this to me personally.
«The data and the evidence currently at our disposal would justify a serious judicial enquiry in any law-respecting state. However, not only does the Vatican refuse to conduct such an enquiry, but it does exactly the opposite: it thwarts and stifles any research seeking to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the death of John Paul I. This state of affairs is evidenced by the Vatican’s refusal to carry out an autopsy ( if indeed there was not one) or in the clandestine nature of this operation (if one actually did take place). It is also evidenced in the obscurity surrounding the embalming, in the way information was manipulated about the circumstances of the death and the discovery of the body, in the silence imposed on Sister Vincenza, in the pressure brought to bear on individuals and institutions, and in the widespread fear of speaking about this affair. This fear, whether conscious or not, runs particularly deep in ecclesiastical circles. It certainly does not present an image of a Church renewed and capable of evangelising the world of today, and it is hardly calculated to protect the life of Popes; on the contrary, it will make the Vatican go down in history as the perfect crime location.31»
Fr. Lopez Saez had the merit of publishing these grave accusations at a time when he was being subjected to strong pressure: «The journal that published my first article about the death of John Paul I in 1985 was forced to publish a comprehensive repudiation of it. At the national secretariat for catechesis, where I was in charge of the adult education department, I was told: “Not a word further if you want to remain here... Treat it like your father were a murderer, it’s something that must stay in the family.”
«“That’s not the case”, I replied. “My father was murdered, and I see no reason to keep quiet.”32»
These threats turned into sanctions when Fr. Lopez Saez published his book You will be held to account: he was stripped of his job in the national secretariat of catechesis. But the arguments he advanced in support of his accusations remained unanswered.
«The mystery of John Paul I’s death», he wrote, «can be resolved provided that silence is not imposed on this affair and that nothing is concealed, but that we try to understand it with sincerity. By acting in this manner, it must be said, we do not attack the Church, but we defend her, in accordance with what is written: “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” (cf. Jn 2:16-17; Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17 and Lk 19:45-46) The Gospel solution is the purification of the Temple which is “a house of prayer” and must never become “a house of commerce” or “a den of thieves”. It is obvious that this question is very grave. Where have the most business transactions been made? In Vatican Enterprises or in the Temple of old denounced by Jesus? Have not too many murders already accompanied these business transactions? Has not the cause of John Paul I’s death been hidden from the Church and the world? Has not his person been totally misrepresented?
«If we fail to answer these questions correctly, the “new evangelisation” will be discredited. At the very least, it will be nothing but a sinister comedy. What is at stake is the relationship of the Church with herself, with the world, and above all with God.
«Today, if one wishes to know the truth, the quantity of evidence available is such that no judge on earth could disregard it, and, what is more, it is in the public domain. It reveals John Paul I to have been a martyr for the purification and renewal of the Church.
«The Church and the world have a right to know. It is a question of rendering justice to John Paul I, of proclaiming his witness, a brilliant light for our times which should be set on a lampstand, be it only to illuminate a dilapidated house full of cracks. The introduction of his cause for beatification could well be a good opportunity for this.33»
THE CONVERSION OF METROPOLITAN NIKODIM
the 60’s and 70’s, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Leningrad, Nikodim, appeared to be
the archetypical Russian bishop totally enslaved to his Communist overlords in
the Kremlin. Yet his meeting with John Paul I on September 5, 1978, and the
words he addressed to him before dying in his arms, have been interpreted by the
Abbé de Nantes as a prophetic sign of the conversion of Russia promised by Our
Lady of Fatima.
Born in 1929 in the Riazan region, the son of a Communist Party member of the Soviet Union, Boris Georgievitch Rotov was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-one and took the name Nikodim. His ascent through the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, subject to the communist authorities, was meteoric: in 1960, at the age of thirty-one, he became president of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for Foreign Relations, and then, in 1963, he was promoted Metropolitan of Leningrad, the second most important see in the Russian Orthodox Church.
His policy of collaboration with the Soviet government was vigorously denounced by perceptive minds like Father Ulisse Floridi1 and the historian André Martin2.
On his instructions, in 1961, an emergency and canonically illegal synod was convened in Moscow. Its administrative reforms permitted the civil authorities to close down thirteen thousand churches out of the twenty thousand that remained in the USSR.
André Martin observed that «every one of the Patriarch of Moscow’s new campaigns of friendship [with the Vatican] coincided with a cry of distress from believers in the USSR. Thus it was that Metropolitan Nikodim’s pilgrimage tour in Italy, from October 10 to 18, 1969, took place at the very same time that believers in the USSR had published in the West an appeal to Pope Paul VI on behalf of prisoners for the faith: Boris Talantov and Levitine-Krasnov. Metropolitan Nikodim obtained a private, unofficial audience with Paul VI at that time. We do not know its substance, but the fact is there was no official intervention by the Vatican on behalf of the imprisoned believers in the USSR.3»
It was thus for very grave reasons that the Abbé de Nantes
suspected Metropolitan Nikodim of being a «Soviet agent, dressed in the robes
and headgear of an Orthodox cleric, but tasked with establishing pacifist
notions within the Christian world»4. Msgr.
Nikodim distinguished himself by his heartfelt eulogies of the Soviet regime,
his pleas for “peaceful co-existence”, and his diatribes against “American
AN ORTHODOX ON THE PATH TOWARDS UNITY
However, Msgr. Nikodim did not neglect his religious duties. His liturgical knowledge as well as his piety impressed those who knew him, as for example Miss Irene Posnoff, a member of the Foyer Oriental Chrétien [Eastern Christian Centre] in Brussels, who, we recall, had intervened to obtain the accomplishment of Our Lady of Fatima’s requests5. Here is her testimony:
«Msgr. Nikodim presided over a celebration of divine worship that could not be more perfect. Those who attended his liturgies retained a profound memory of the occasion. At the same time, he was open to justified innovations, for example to reading the Gospel in Russian instead of the Slavonic, which the faithful were coming to understand less and less in the USSR.
«The Metropolitan composed offices and akathists himself. His office in honour of Saints Rostov and Yaroslavl received the approbation of the Holy Russian Synod and was incorporated into the liturgical offices of the Russian Church.
«His prolific activity did not prevent him from dedicating long hours to prayer. Even after he had suffered several coronaries, the Metropolitan insisted on remaining standing during the long offices of Holy Week, more than forty hours in total. His doctor came to the office for Easter night, ready to intervene if his heart gave any sign of weakness. A visiting priest told us that Msgr. Nikodim had suggested to him, after a long hard day, that they should pray together in the evening. He had not suspected this would last from midnight until 2 o’clock in the morning. A Catholic religious, a very close friend of the Metropolitan, informed us that during the last years of his life Msgr. Nikodim would celebrate the sacred liturgy every day, which was rather unusual in the Orthodox Church; if his health permitted, he would receive Communion. When he journeyed abroad, if he foresaw that he would not be able to celebrate the sacred liturgy, he would carry on his person the Consecrated Host, adoring It and receiving It in Communion in his hotel bedroom.
«A devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary also characterised his spiritual life. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, provided it was well explained, seemed to him perfectly acceptable and in keeping with the Greek Fathers. He even pointed out to us the passage in the Byzantine Office where the words “Immaculate Conception” are used. He went on pilgrimage to Fatima to venerate the site which Our Lady had sanctified by Her presence.6»
The testimony of Archpriest John Joseph Mowatt, who received him in 1975 at Fatima and who guided him around the apparition sites, deserves to be quoted:
«Without announcing his visit and without any fanfare, on the morning of May 22, 1975, Metropolitan Nikodim took a taxi to Lisbon and made his way to Fatima. He went directly to the Domus Pacis (the international centre of the Blue Army) where he asked to see me.
«Metropolitan Nikodim spent six hours with me. In the Russian chapel of the Blue Army centre he celebrated a Moleben in honour of the Most Blessed Mother of God and of Saint Nicholas of Myra. For, according to the calendar of the Russian Church, that day was the feast of the translation to Bari of Saint Nicholas’ relics, the patronal feast of Nikodim’s cathedral in Leningrad. Afterwards he joined us for lunch. We then made a pilgrimage to all the sites: the Cova da Iria, Aljustrel, Loca de Cabeço, Valinhos and the parish church of Fatima.
«But the location he loved above all was the one where the Angel had given the Blessed Eucharist to the three little visionaries: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. There he prayed for a long time, going over each inch of terrain.»
Msgr. Mowatt probably related to him a touching fact, one which he liked to point out. We know that in 1916 the Angel gave Lucy, who had already made her First Communion, the Body of Jesus Christ, and to Jacinta and Francisco, who had not yet made it, he gave the Precious Blood. Now, remarks Msgr. Mowatt, «in the Byzantine Church it is customary to administer the Precious Blood to children on the day of their baptism, which is also that of their confirmation, and thereafter to continue making them drink several drops of the Precious Blood from time to time until they reach the age of reason, make their first confession, and are then able to receive Communion like adults under both species.7» The parallel is judicious, and this delicate attention of Heaven’s – in conforming both to the Byzantine rite which presents young children with the Precious Blood in Communion, and to the Rome rite which ordinarily only gives adults the most Sacred Body in Communion – is perfectly adapted to strike a chord with Christians of the Eastern rite.
Let us present the remainder of Msgr. Mowatt’s account:
«When I asked him whether he would like to meet one of the sanctuary dignitaries, he replied that he had made this trip as a simple pilgrim with the sole aim of honouring Our Lady. Before he left Fatima, Msgr. Nikodim gave me several presents including a golden pectoral cross set with turquoises.
«What still remains with me, like an indelible impression, is the Metropolitan’s profound interest in the Catholic Church.
«Metropolitan Nikodim, despite the breach of a thousand years separating Orthodoxy from Catholicism, appears to have an all-consuming love for Rome, the Pope, and the Catholic Church. On Christmas Eve 1971, he attended midnight Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral while making a visit to the United States, a visit totally ignored by the public. In 1975, at Fatima, he took great pleasure in translating the Latin inscriptions in the Basilica, and he asked me whether his translations were correct. He also spoke with profound interest of the worship and ceremonies of the Latin rite. One month later, in that same year, after he had met Pope Paul VI, he requested and obtained permission to offer Mass in the Confession of Saint Peter.8»
The Eastern schismatics, supposedly “orthodox”, are frequently animated by a tenacious hatred for the Roman Church, which is accused of having broken the pure tradition and of being the cause of the division. However, Msgr. Nikodim appeared to nourish in his heart sentiments of a quite different character. He even seemed to be convinced of the primacy of the See of Peter.
«During one of his visits to our Centre», indicates Irene Posnoff, «we learned that his great openness towards Rome had its source in his meditation upon certain texts in the Gospel which had struck him, such as: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18) The Orthodox interpretation, namely “The reference is not to the person of Peter as foundation of the Church, but to his faith”, did not seem to him to correspond to the actual sense [...]. After having explained the evolution of his thinking, Msgr. Nikodim told us that it would be premature to make his position known, as the hour of reconciliation had not yet come: “But we can hasten it. From where the Lord has placed me, I can work for rapprochement between our Churches, build contacts, inculcate a spirit of openness in future priests, instruct the faithful of my diocese, and authorise the practice of intercommunion with Catholics.”
«Thus Msgr. Nikodim’s attitude was very close to that of Vladimir Soloviev, although he followed a more intuitive path than that of the great ecumenical philosopher who spent seven years studying the original texts of the writings of the Church Fathers and of the whole history of the first millennium. If for Soloviev the idea of taking his own private steps to join the Catholic Church was conditioned by the refusal of an Orthodox priest to administer the sacraments to him, for Msgr. Nikodim, on the other hand, this problem did not arise because he was invested with the plenitude of the sacerdotal powers within his own Church.
«On one of his last visits to the Centre, he related the
discussion that had taken place while he was defending his thesis on John XXIII. He had
been reproached for not having criticised statements made by John XXIII
regarding the Roman primacy. He replied that he had adopted a purely
descriptive approach, because, before entering into judgement, one must
know the facts. And when one had understood the problem in depth, there would no
longer be any place for criticisms and condemnations.9»
THE TESTIMONY OF THE UKRAINIAN PRIEST MYKHAÏLO HAVRYLIV
While he was studying at the Theological Academy in Leningrad, from 1973, the Ukrainian seminarian Mykhaïlo Havryliv came to know Msgr. Nikodim personally since the latter provided his spiritual direction. The Metropolitan revealed to him his convictions about the primacy of Peter and encouraged him to be loyal to the Holy See.
Let us quote several extracts from Mykhaïlo Havryliv’s autobiography, published in 1987 by Samizdat.
«In 1973, at the beginning of Lent, I was invited to take part in the Mass celebrated by Metropolitan Nikodim in Leningrad’s Trinity Cathedral. I was to fill in for a seminarian. I was then given the job of carrying a candle during the Metropolitan’s Masses. So I often had the opportunity of accompanying him, along with the other subdeacons, around the towns and villages of the region of Leningrad and Novgorod.
«His convictions were unmistakably Catholic. He had a profound regard for Pope John XXIII, for the Ukrainian Metropolitan Sheptytsky and for the Jesuit Order: he never went anywhere without their Rule which he always kept in his briefcase for study purposes. According to him, the spirituality of Ignatius Loyola was the most practical, the most rational and the most efficacious.
«On September 6, 1975, Metropolitan Nikodim took us to Novgorod. That same evening he invited me to take a walk with him. Near the Cathedral of Saint Sophia I made my general confession to the Metropolitan; I swore eternal fidelity to the Holy See and the Pope; naturally, all this remained secret.10»
Mykhaïlo Havryliv, ordained priest by Msgr. Nikodim on November
4, 1975, would openly convert to Catholicism at the end of 1979, joining the
undercover priests of the Ukrainian Church of the Eastern rite, united to the
See of Peter.
A MYSTERY OF MERCY
In 1978, after having represented the Russian Orthodox Church at the funeral of Pope Paul VI, Msgr. Nikodim went to venerate the Holy Shroud in Turin, during the first days of its exhibition, commencing on August 27.
On September 3, at the Mass for the enthronement of John Paul I, he made a very unexpected gesture towards Cardinal Slipyj, the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Eastern rite, a Church hated and persecuted by the Orthodox. «Msgr. Nikodim was suddenly seen to approach the astonished Cardinal Slipyj and publicly to embrace him.11»
Two days later, on September 5, Pope John Paul I was to receive in audience delegations from the various Christian denominations who had come for the inauguration of his pontificate. «Msgr. Nikodim», reports Father Wenger, «had insisted upon having a private discussion with the Pope, for he had a message to transmit to him.12» John Paul I acquiesced to his request. But, during the audience, just when the Holy Father was thanking Msgr. Nikodim for his kind wishes, the latter grew pale, slipped from his armchair and died suddenly. John Paul I, kneeling by his side, said prayers for the absolution of his sins while waiting for a doctor who could do nothing but certify the death13.
On September 7, speaking to the clergy of Rome, the Holy Father would recall, with great emotion, the circumstances of Msgr. Nikodim’s passing: «Two days ago, the Metropolitan of Leningrad died in Our arms. I was just replying to the words he had addressed to me. I assure you that never in my life have I ever heard such beautiful words on the Church as those which he had just uttered. I cannot repeat them; they are a secret. I am still struck by them. He was an Orthodox, but how he loved the Church! I believe he suffered greatly for the Church in his enormous efforts for unity.14»
Did Metropolitan Nikodim «die a true Catholic», as the Ukrainian priest Mykhaïlo Havryliv would affirm several years later15? One may presume so, as everything seems to indicate that his outstandingly «beautiful words on the Church» amounted to an abjuration of the Eastern schism and a profession of faith in the universal jurisdiction proper to the successor of Peter.
Msgr. Nikodim was favoured with the grace, precious above all others, of receiving sacramental absolution through the ministry of the holy Pope as he lay dying. The divine pardon granted to this Russian monk, who had collaborated with the Communist masters of the Kremlin, reminds us of Russia’s mysterious predestination: this nation, whilst admittedly long possessed by Satan, has yet remained the object of an inexplicable predilection of God’s Heart. «Our Lord», wrote Sister Lucy, «is disposed to show mercy towards Russia. He very much desires to save it.16» And let us not forget the irrevocable promise: «The Immaculate Heart of Mary will save Russia. It has been entrusted to Her.17»
Even though the “secret” of the conversation between Msgr. Nikodim
and John Paul I has not been entirely elucidated, the Holy Father’s astonishment
as he listened to «such beautiful words on the Church» remains a prophetic sign of
the extraordinary impression that the miracle of Russia’s conversion will create
throughout the whole world. This sudden and marvellous conversion to its Catholic
faith of old, taking place after the Pope and the Bishops have consecrated it to
the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will make known the all-powerful Mediation of the
Queen of Heaven, and it is then that the reign of Her Immaculate Heart will be
established in the world.
(1) Jours de France,
no. 1238, September 2, 1978, p. 48.
(2) Cf. “Saint Pie X, lumière de l’Église pour notre vingtième siècle”, CRC no. 237, November 1987, p. 4.
(3) Jean Bourdarias, Les fumées du Vatican, Fayard, 1979, p. 137.
(4) Supra, chap. 7, appendix 1.
(5) Quoted by Giulio Nicolini, L’Osservatore Romano, French edition of October 17, 1978, p. 5.
(6) Quoted in Humilitas, July 2001, p. 8.
(7) Bourdarias, op. cit., p. 127.
(8) Opera omnia, vol. 9, p. 503-504.
(9) Letter of August 24, 1978, ibid.
(10) Quoted by Kummer, Papa Giovanni Paolo I. Una vita per la Chiesa, Messaggero Padova, 1988, p. 560.
(11) Ibid., p. 29, 563. Msgr. Gioacchino Muccin, bishop emeritus of Belluno, said that the Patriarch’s words, «I am out of danger», had left him with «a rather bitter taste». Knowing that he would be the one chosen by the conclave, the bishop adds, «there was a fear and a trembling in him that he tried to conceal from those who were close to him» (ibid., p. 603-604).
(12) Humilitas, April 2002, p. 6.
(13) Georges Huber, Jean-Paul Ier ou la vocation de Jean-Baptiste, S.O.S, 1979, p. 98.
(15) Cardinal Lorscheider. Quoted in 30 Days, French edition, August 1998, p. 14.
(16) Cardinal Cody. Quoted in John Paul I. The Smiling Pope, by a Carmelite nun, 1985, St Teresa’s Press, p. 62.
(17) Huber, op. cit., p. 97-98.
(19) CRC no. 133, September 1978, p. 4. The Smiling Pope, op. cit., p. 62-63.
(20) Huber, op. cit., p. 98.
(21) “Entretien avec Antonia Luciani”, 30 Days, French edition, March 1992, p. 50. Let us recall that Saint Pius X, on August 4, 1903, had explained his choice of name by telling the cardinal dean that popes named Pius were those who had had the most to suffer. Cf. CRC no 237, November 1987, p. 3.
(22) Yallop, In God’s Name, Corgi Books, 1985, p. 130.
(23) Osservatore Romano, Italian edition, September 28, 1980.
(24) D. C., 1978, p. 802.
(25) Quoted in 30 Days, French edition, March 1992, p. 50.
(26) Kummer, op. cit., p. 572.
(27) The Smiling Pope, op. cit., p. 62-63.
(28) Kummer, op. cit., p. 572, 574.
(29) Huber, op. cit., p. 152.
(30) Ibid., p. 112. 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 43.
(31) Yallop, op. cit., p. 137.
(32) Jacques Martin, Mes six Papes, Éditions Mame, 1993, p. 205-206.
(34) Andrea Lazzarini, Jean-Paul Ier, le Pape d’un nouveau matin, Éditions France-Empire, 1979, p. 195.
(35) Kummer, op. cit., p. 28.
(36) Osservatore Romano, Italian edition, October 8, 1978, p. 2.
(37) Kummer, op. cit., p. 32.
(38) “Un autre saint Pie X qui s’ignore”, CRC no. 133, Sept. 1978, p. 1.
(39) Cardinal Pericle Felici, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, former Substitute of the Secretariat of State and subsequently Archbishop of Florence in 1977, were the main backers of the Patriarch of Venice; cf. Andrea Tornielli, “Le cardinal pris en tenaille”, 30 Days, French edition, September 1992, p. 50.
(40) John Paul I told Msgr. Bosa, Vicar General of Venice, that he had been elected, not unanimously, but «almost unanimously». 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 46.
(41) Twenty years later, the journalist Gianni Valenti would point out that «the last to rally behind the Luciani vote were several European bishops, amongst whom figured the Austrian Franz Koenig, who would go on to be Karol Wojtyla’s chief backer. The Archbishop of Madrid, Vicente Enrique y Tarancon, revealed this whilst recounting the meeting that took place in his cell with representatives of conciliar progressivism, such as Suenens, Alfrink and Koenig: “We had a discussion”, he would say, “because we felt that the conclave was taking an unfortunate direction.”» (30 Days, French edition, August 1998, p. 10) But after the election, they did not display their disappointment, or rather their anger, in public.
(42) Quoted in 30 Days, French edition, August 1998, p. 13.
(43) CRC no. 133, September 1978, p. 3.
(44) CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 1-4.
(45) CRC no. 136, December 1978, p. 10.
(46) CRC no. 133, p. 3.
(47) Quoted by Gianni Valente in 30 Days, French edition, August 1998, p. 11.
(48) Osservatore Romano, Italian edition, September 28, 1980.
(49) Bourdarias, op. cit., p. 165.
(50) Letter of the Abbé Georges de Nantes to Pope Paul VI of October 11, 1967, CRC no. 1, October 1967, p. 1.
(51) D. C., 1978, p. 832-833.
(52) Ibid., p. 866.
(53) Ibid., p. 866.
(54) Ibid., p. 867.
(55) Ibid., p. 869.
(56) Ibid., p. 835.
(57) Ibid., p. 868.
(58) Ibid., p. 859.
(59) CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 4.
(60) CRC no. 133, September 1978, p. 4. «The phrase is an admission of helpless confusion, the kind of confusion that is still with us today», commented the Abbé de Nantes.
(61) CRC no. 136, December 1978, p. 7.
(62) CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 4.
(63) The precise words used by Mother Thérèse de Saint-Augustin were, «L’amour sera toujours vainqueur. On peut tout quand on aime. Love will always conquer. One can do everything when one loves.»
(64) D. C., 1978, p. 871.
(65) Ibid., p. 829.
(66) Huber, op. cit., p. 138.
(67) Quoted in Marianum, no. 40, 1978, p. 459.
(68) Letter of September 1, 1978, ibid., p. 457.
(69) Francis Johnston, Fatima, The Great Sign, Augustine Publishing Company, 1980, p. 127.
(70) Camillo Bassotto, “Il mio cuore è ancora a Venezia”. Albino Luciani, Krinon, 1990, p. 116.
(71) CRC no. 368, June-July 2000, p. 25.
(72) Quoted in the CRC no. 135, November 1978, p. 7.
(73) 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 47.
(74) J.-J. Thierry, Lettres de Rome sur le singulier trépas de Jean-Paul Ier. Belfond, 1981, p. 79.
(75) “Servi il prossimo con letizia”, Osservatore romano, Italian edition, September 28, 1979.
(76) Quoted by Don Francesco Taffarel, “I fioretti di un vescovo”, Humilitas, July 2002, p. 13.
(77) Quoted in Humilitas, May 1986, p. 3.
(78) CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 3.
(79) Supra, p. 340.
(80) CRC no. 134, p. 3.
(81) D. C., 1978, p. 860-861.
(82) CRC no. 136, December 1978, p. 10.
(83) Le Figaro, August 26, 1988.
(84) CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 3.
(85) “Un processus dégradant”, CRC no. 49, October 1971, p. 1 sq.
(86) Andrea Tornielli, “Un curé sur le trône de Pierre”, 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 47.
(87) Ibid., p. 44.
(88) Quoted in Humilitas, May 1986, p. 3.
(89) 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 47.
(90) Quoted by Jesus Lopez Saez, Se pedira cuenta, Origines, 1991, p. 66.
(91) “Le Saint que Dieu nous a donné”, CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 3.
(93) Cf. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Pour l’Église, vol. 4, chap. 1, CRC publications, in preparation.
(94) J.-J. Thierry, Lettres de Rome sur le singulier trépas de Jean-Paul Ier, Belfond, 1981, 185 pages; La vraie mort de Jean-Paul Ier, Jean-Cyrille Godefroy, 1984, 177 pages.
(95) Original edition published by Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1984. Edition referred to in these footnotes published by Corgi Books, 1985.
(96) CRC no. 202, July 1984, p. 1.
(97) Ibid., p. 1.
(98) Meurtre au Vatican, CRC no. 202, July 1984, p. 1-6; La justice passera, CRC no. 203, August 1984, p. 1-12.
(99) CRC no. 202, p. 2.
(100) Ibid., p. 3.
(101) Yallop, op. cit., p. 227.
(102) Supra, chapter 7.
(103) Yallop, op. cit., p. 227.
(104) Ibid., p. 240-241.
(105) CRC no. 202, p. 4.
(106) 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 47.
(107) Yallop, op. cit., p. 258.
(108) Ibid., p. 223. Supra, chapter 7.
(109) Ibid., p. 223.
(110) Ibid., p. 259.
(111) CRC no. 202, p. 3.
(112) CRC no. 202, p. 6.
(113) Yallop, op. cit., p. 311.
(114) Edoardo Luciani, Il Sabato, August 28, 1993.
(115) “It is 9 o’clock, the Pope is well.” Conversation with Doctor Antonio da Ros. 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 49.
(116) Yallop, op. cit., p. 335.
(117) 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 49.
(118) Bourdarias, op. cit., p. 152.
(119) Msgr. Bosa. Yallop, op. cit., p. 351.
(120) Ibid., p. 240.
(121) Jean-Paul Ier l’espérance, Vokaer, 1978, p. 129.
(122) Bourdarias, op. cit., p. 248.
(123) Saez, op. cit., p. 49.
(124) Documentation catholique, 1978, p. 864.
(125) Yallop, op. cit., p. 298.
(126) Ibid., p. 298 sq. Andrea Tornielli received information that agrees with David Yallop’s revelations: «Several Venetian priests from the Patriarch’s entourage confirmed to 30 Days that John Paul I intended to call to Rome, as his new Secretary of State, his main backer at the election, Giovanni Benelli, Archbishop of Florence, and also to reform the Institute for Religious Works.» (30 Days, French edition, September 1992, p. 34) Regarding Msgr. Marcinkus’s enforced resignation, Andrea Tornielli reported the information given by Father Francesco Farusi, Vatican Radio’s newspaper editor, in September 1978. Cf. 30 Days, French edition, Sept. 1993, p. 47.
(127) CRC no. 202, p. 4.
(128) Yallop, op. cit., p. 303-304.
(129) Tornielli, Papa Luciani. Il parroco del mondo, Segno, 1998, p. 173.
(130) Yallop, op. cit., p. 305.
(131) 30 Days, French edition, September 1993, p. 49.
(132) CRC no. 202, p. 4-5.
(133) Cf. CRC no. 136, December 1978, p. 10.
(134) Cf. Thierry, Lettres de Rome..., op. cit., p. 125.
(135) It seems that his glasses and slippers were subsequently handed to Mrs. Edoardo Luciani. Cf. John Cornwell, A Thief in the Night or the French edition of the same, Comme un voleur dans la nuit, published by Robert Laffont, 1989, p. 194; 305.
(136) Yallop, op. cit., p. 317.
(137) Ibid., p. 325.
(138) Ibid., p. 321.
(139) Ibid., p. 316.
(140) Ibid., p. 318 sq.
(141) Ibid., p. 345-346.
(142) Ibid., p. 324.
(143) Thierry, Lettres de Rome, op. cit., p. 103.
(144) See their photograph in Yallop, p. 288-9.
(145) Ibid., p. 326.
(146) CRC no. 202, p. 6.
(147) Yallop, op. cit., p. 322.
(148) Bourdarias, op. cit., p. 148-149.
(150) Saez, op. cit., p. 24.
(151) Ibid., p. 40.
(152) Yallop, op. cit., p. 338.
(153) Quoted in 30 Days, French edition, March 1992, p. 40.
(154) CRC no. 133, September 1978, p. 1-4.
(155) Based on the inaccurate information given by Vatican Radio on September 29 at 2.30 p.m. John Paul I died, it seems, holding in his hands his notes on the appointments and changes decided on the evening before.
(156) Cf. our appendix 2 to this chapter.
(157) “Le saint que Dieu nous a donné”, CRC no. 134, October 1978, p. 1-2.
(1) Published by Christian Bourgois,
May 1984, 437 pages. David Yallop is a man of the Left. His prejudices are
without consequence when he exposes the results of his investigations into the
Pope’s death. On the other hand, they are highly damaging to his presentation of
the Pope’s convictions and plans. A prisoner of the Marxist analytical framework
and of his obsessive interest in contraception, David Yallop has misrepresented
the real Pope John Paul I. Cf. Georges de Nantes, CRC no. 202, July
1984, p. 7 sq.
(2) Quoted in CRC no. 203, p. 1.
(3) CRC no. 202, p. 1.
(4) This note is quoted in the two following books: Jesus Lopez Saez, Se pedira cuenta, Origenes, 1991, 2nd ed., p. 129 sq; Liliane Scrhraûwen, Le mystère Jean-Paul Ier, Marabout, 1995, p. 209 sq.
(5) CRC no. 202, p. 2.
(6) CRC no. 202, p. 3; no. 203, p. 3.
(7) CRC no. 203, p. 5, extracts. Regarding Calvi’s assassination, disguised as a suicide, cf. Il est ressuscité, no. 4, November 2002, p. 2-5.
(8) CRC no. 203, p. 6, extracts.
(9) Cf. “Vous avez fait de ma maison une caverne de voleurs... et d’assassins!” CRC no. 235, August 1987, p. 1-4.
(10) Yallop, op. cit., p. 314-315, 357.
(11) Ibid., p. 369.
(12) Saez, op. cit., p. 12 and 124.
(13) Ibid., p. 132.
(14) Ibid., p. 25; Thierry, Lettres de Rome, op. cit., p. 100-101.
(15) Yallop, op. cit., p. 343-344.
(16) Saez, op. cit., p. 132.
(17) Kummer, op. cit., p. 227.
(18) Yallop, op. cit., p. 349. Well does Yallop denounce «the plethora of lies that poured from Vatican City about the medical history of Luciani» (p. 331, 335-336, 348-355). Certain testimonies appear to have been formulated to order, after the event, in order to remove suspicions and evidence of assassination.
(19) Ibid., p. 351.
(21) Il Sabato, August 28, 1993.
(22) The conversation with Doctor da Ros, published in 30 Days, September 1993 (French edition), entitled “Il est 9 heures. Le Pape va bien”, was fully reproduced in the CRC no. 372, Nov-Dec 2000, p. 20.
(24) Saez, op. cit., p. 132.
(25) Yallop, op. cit., p. 354.
(26) CRC no. 372, p. 20.
(27) Saez, op. cit., p. 132.
(28) Thierry, op. cit., p. 111.
(29) Quoted by Cornwell, op. cit., p. 188, 190. To appreciate David Yallop’s perspicacity and the value of his investigations, one will profit from reading his conversation with Cornwell, as reported by the latter, ibid., p. 185-192.
(30) Op. cit.
(31) Ibid., p. 14; 107.
(32) Ibid., p. 14, 21, 87.
(33) Saez, op. cit., p. 14-15; 125.
(1) Floridi, Moscou et le Vatican,
France-Empire, 1979, 386 pages.
(2) André Martin, Les croyants en URSS, Fayard, 1970, 266 pages.
(3) Ibid., p. 135.
(4) CRC no. 28, January 1970, p. 6; no. 101, January 1976, p. 2.
(5) Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 3, p. 159, 204.
(6) Irene Posnoff, Lettre du Foyer oriental chrétien, supplement to nos. 70 and 71, 1987-1988.
(7) “La Mère de Dieu et le mouvement oecuménique”, Marie sous le symbole du Coeur, Téqui, 1973, p. 30-31.
(8) L’appel de Notre-Dame, no. 98, April-June 1980. Résurrection, no. 3, March 2001, p. 10.
(9) Posnoff, op. cit.
(10) M. Havryliv, “I broke all relations with the KGB”, in Catacombes, no. 194-195, November-December 1987, p. 9.
(11) H. Stehle, Eastern politics of the Vatican: 1917-1979, Ohio University Press, p. 369.
(12) Antoine Wenger, Le cardinal Villot, Desclée de Brouwer, 1989, p. 235.
(13) Msgr. Nikodim was said to have suffered a heart attack. We should point out that, according to Malachi Martin, Msgr. Nikodim was thought to have been poisoned by the cup of coffee that he drank, a cup of coffee that was intended for Pope John Paul I (Vatican, le trésor de Saint-Pierre, Le Rocher, 1987, p. 549-553).
(14) D. C., 1978, p. 836.
(15) Havryliv, op. cit.
(16) Letter from Lucy to Fr. Gonçalves of January 21, 1935. Toute la vérité sur Fatima, vol. 2, p. 394.
(17) Letter from Lucy to Fr. Gonçalves of May 18, 1936, ibid., p. 399.