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In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I
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In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I

A detailed and massively documented expose on the probable assassination of Pope John Paul I on September 28, 1978, after 33 days of rule. The author points to many coincidences and discrepancies that collectively lend themselves to the conclusion that the pope was subjected to “the Italian solution,” i.e., poisoned. For example, no autopsy was performed although there was precedent for performing this procedure after a pope was autopsied in 1830 out of concern that he had been poisoned. John Paul I was embalmed within twelve hours of discovery, contrary to Italian law which required 24 hours minimum. No blood was drained from his body before embalming, which was contrary to custom. Neither John Paul I’s long-time personal physician nor the head of the Vatican’s medical service was summoned to inspect the body, but rather a Vatican physician who was unfamiliar with coroner proceedings. Although the physician announced that John Paul I had likely died from myocardial infarction, he declined to sign a death certificate stating this on the grounds that no autopsy had been allowed. When John Paul I’s personal physician learned of this provisional diagnosis, he refused to believe it since his patient had no history of heart trouble and was an avid mountain climber. John Paul I’s body was discovered in bed in his private apartments around 5:00 am, yet the two brothers who served as the Vatican embalmers stated that they had been summoned at 4:45 am. Although he supposedly had died alone, no inference of foul play was made, even though it is law in many locales that a person who dies alone requires an autopsy to counter a legal presumption of murder.

Within a few minutes of the body’s discovery, Cardinal Jean Villot, the Vatican “Secretary of State”, a veteran official of the Roman Curia, or Vatican state bureaucracy, removed from the room all of the pope’s personal effects, including his spectacles, his slippers, his will from a desk drawer, a list of planned transfers and new personnel appointments, and a bottle of Effortil, prescription medicine that the pope had been taking for some months due to low blood pressure, and perhaps a cup of coffee. None of these items was ever seen again. Even more ominous, two weeks earlier a Russian archbishop had died in John Paul I’s presence shortly after sipping coffee.

Not only was Cardinal Villot himself prominent on the list of persons about to be removed by John Paul I, so were many other high-ranking figures in the Roman Curia, persons who had spent years in the Vatican and were far more familiar with its factions and power-plays and secret stairwells than the lone newcomer Albino Luciani. Luciani was a “dark-horse” candidate from Venice, who had rarely visited Rome, much less built a power-base in that city, and had arrived with only his secretary. He had been elected unexpectedly to solve a deadlock between liberals, who favored easing the ban on contraception, and conservatives who favored maintaining the status quo, or returning to the days before the 1963 Vatican Council II and the exclusive use of Latin in church services. After four voting sessions, the reformist-minded Luciani had prevailed over conservative Cardinal Baggio by only a few votes. John Paul I had only begun to realize the limits to a pope’s power, however, and in the month since his election, the Vatican newspaper had published several articles in direct opposition to his instructions, and contradicting his previously published opinions. When Luciani ordered Baggio to leave Rome and take his place in Venice, Baggio indignantly refused in an hour-long heated argument one day before John Paul I died.

John Paul I’s dissatisfaction with Villot and Baggio was not merely personal, but likely stemmed from the fact that both were on a list of alleged members of a secret right-wing lodge of Freemasons called Propaganda Due, or P2, that had recently been published in the Italian papers by a disgruntled lodge member. Conversations that John Paul I had with others in the hours before his death confirm that he planned to remove all Vatican officials who were on the list and replace them with others whose loyalty to the Church was unquestioned. Also prominent among them was the American from Cicero, Illinois, Bishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Vatican Bank, whose long involvement with the notorious Mafia figures Michel Sindona and Roberto Calvi had also recently become a matter of public knowledge.

In September, 1978, Sindona was under prosecution in New York and wanted in Italy for bank fraud having been responsible for an international banking crisis that bore his name: “Il Crack Sindona.” Having swindled $1.3 billion, Roberto Calvi was later the victim of a Mafia hit and was found hanging from London Bridge in 1982. Both were deeply implicated in decades of banking fraud, having used the Vatican Bank, necessarily with the complicity and knowledge of Bishop Marcinkus, as a cover to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in heroin profits from New York and Palermo, and to aid in the illegal transfer of currency out of Italy in evasion of Italian banking regulations. The Church made huge profits on these transfers. After a long series of murders, bombings, assassinations of judges, and many Mafia-style “suicides” in which close associates of Calvi were thrown from the top floors of buildings, after John Paul I’s death, Marcinkus was confirmed in his position as “God’s Banker” by John Paul II, as were all those on the list of Vatican Freemasons whom John Paul I had marked for removal before his supposedly natural death from “a bad ticker.”

While it is unlikely that murder can ever be proven given the secrecy and autonomy of the Vatican, bland pronouncements of comity in the city-state seem naïve. Like any monarchy, the Vatican is rife with intrigue, privilege, opacity, entrenched interest, character assassination, and immunity from accountability. Popes, like kings, are prisoners of their palace, knowing only what their handlers want them to know, and the world usually hears of a pope only what the Roman Curia wishes the world to hear. No one is more isolated, misinformed, and vulnerable than a king on his throne—or a pope in his bed. In democracies, revolutions are made in newspapers; in monarchies, they are made by food-tasters. The head of P2, Licio Gelli, instructed all important P2 members, which included dozens of Italian admirals, army generals, and members of parliament, to carry vials of digitalis on their persons so they could commit suicide rather than be forced to divulge secrets. A few drops from one of these vials by just one P2 member in the Vatican slipped into John Paul I’s coffee or now-vanished medicine bottle, accessed by a secret stairwell, would have been sufficient to end his life. Surely it was no accident that Licio Gelli would announce his surreptitious phone-calls to Roberto Calvi from exile in Uruguay by speaking the single word “Luciani.” And that Roberto Calvi would always—and desperately—respond by sending Gelli more millions of dollars looted from Vatican-owned companies. It seems that the puppet-master of P2 believed he had performed some important service that benefited Calvi involving that name, a service that Calvi wished not to be made public.

Yet the assassination remains unproven. Perhaps what is of most value in this book is not the documentation on John Paul I’s alleged murder, but the documentation on the Vatican’s involvement in bank fraud and the growth of its investments after it signed the Lateran Treaties with Benito Mussolini in 1927. The Church is the only private corporation to have its own state, its own capital, and its ambassadors granted recognition by virtually every country in the world. The Church operates completely tax-free and the members of the Curia enjoy absolute immunity from foreign prosecution so long as they remain in the Vatican. Not only does the Church collect vast annual cash collections from its “shareholders,” most of which is forwarded to Rome and owned personally by the Pope, who is absolutely immune to all prosecution for any deed he may commit inside the Vatican, possessing the job for life, but the Church is the beneficiary of taxes collected on its behalf by the governments of many other countries. The Kirkensteuer tax, for example, levies billions annually from German citizens, most of which is transferred to the Vatican. Payment of these taxes in no way confers the kind of control possessed by rank-and-file shareholders in ordinary profit-making corporations. This Chairman of the Board cannot be removed and does not answer to shareholders. The Church is the largest private owner of real estate in the world, having owned, at least when this book was written, the Montreal Stock Exchange building, the Watergate Hotel, and entire city blocks of office buildings in many countries. It had business interests virtually everywhere, including 15% of Immobiliare, the largest Italian construction and real estate conglomerate (made famous by its inclusion in the plot of the movie Godfather III). It owned and may still own munitions factories, cement plants, railways, electric companies, water utilities, finance companies that charge exorbitant interest rates, a significant part of the gold at Fort Knox—even at one time a company that made contraceptives. These facts alone make this book an essential read for anyone who wishes to be informed. —SiriusReviews.com.

Sirius Reviews

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