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lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2018

The Day of Reckoning

John Paul II under examination

by Jesus López Sáez

Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope Sánchez Mejorada

1. John Paul was well

Some years ago, on August 20, 1993, I received a call from Rome. It was Andrea Tornielli, of the 30 Giorni magaziine of Comunione e Liberazione.  They were preparing an issue devoted to John Paul I, in connection with the anniversary of his death. He put some questions to me. As it was a delicate topic, I asked him to send them to me in writing and I would respond in the same manner. Almost nothing was published of the interview I was given, but it served for Dr. Da Ros, the personal physician of Pope John Paul I, to finally speak, breaking a silence which had lasted fifteen years.

Unpublished interview.

Here are the most important parts of that interview, which ─ in addition ─ summarizes the research done through that moment on the death of John Paul I.

Q:- In your opinion, are there circumstances which are not quite clear in the death Pope Luciani?

A:- There are indeed: an unfounded diagnosis (acute myocardial infarction, and, on top of it, instantaneous) given by physicians who had not known Luciani as a patient, without performing an autopsy, (officially, none was performed), being Luciani in good health and having had no coronary precedents, a manipulated information on the finding of the body and on th circumstances of the death, the silence imposed on Sor Vincenza and other types of pressure exerted on institutions and persons, a generalized fear of speaking on the topic, the secret character of the autopsy (if one was done), obscure financial activities of the IOR, distortion of John Paul I's figure.

Pope Luciani was preparing a deep reform of the Vatican, he had a program of changes, he had already taken important decisions. For example: to revise all the structure of the Curia, to dismiss the President of the IOR, to reform the IOR entirely (so that the sad experiences of the past do not repeat themselves), to make open opposition (in front of everybody) against Freemasonry and the Mafia.

On the other hand, a series of events take place in the Vatican in September 1978 which require greater explanation: dismissal of the Gusso brothers, pontifical stewards, despite the opposition of Secretary Diego Lorenzi; the installation of electric rings next to the bed of the Pope in the morning before his death: the strange anecdote of a physician who, someday before the Pope's death, told him "you have your heart shattered" (the Pope paid no attention); the irruption of a stranger in the papal chambers who is let in by a supposed likeness to Dr. Da Ros, who would be coming from Venice, the death threats Luciani receives from the first days in his pontificate; the sudden death of Nikodim, (metropolitan of Leningrad), while he was conversing with the Pope, after having drunk a cup of coffee.

Q:- What were his health conditions really?

A:- Pope Luciani was in good health. His death was totally unexpected. When Diego Lorenzi communicated the news, his personal physician could not believe it. Dr. Da Ros "had visited the Pope the preceding Sunday and had found him in good health," says he who had been Luciani's secretary.

I have, among others, a testimonial by Lorenzi who responds this way to the question of whether Luciani was ill: "No. I can say that, in the 26 months during which I had been with him, Luciani had never spent 24 hours in bed, he had never spent a morning or an afternoon in bed, he had never had a headache or fever which would have required him to stay in bed, never. He enjoyed good health, never a diet problem, he would eat just about anything placed in front of him, he had not known a diabetes or a cholesterol problem; he just had his blood pressure a little low" [1]

Q:- What do you think of the book ─ quite discredited for its imprecision in many passages ─ written by Yallop?

A:- Even if the book may have questionable or imprecise aspects, Yallop has the merit of having said in 1984, after almost three years of serious investigation, that "if Luciani's death occurred from natural causes, then Villot's subsequent actions and instructions turn out to be inexplicable". Moreover, it is worth recognizing that important aspects of Yallop's investigation have been subsequently confirmed: the way in which the body is found, Sor Vincenza's intimidation, Luciani's good health conditions, the decisions adopted by John Paul I on financial matters (the reform of the IOR, the dismissal of Marcinkus), the responsibility of the IOR over Banco Ambrosiano´s bankruptcy, IOR's links with members of the P2 Lodge, the series of  murders and violent attacks with intimidating purposes (related in one way or another with the P2 Lodge).

According to Yallop, there were those who "had much to lose" had Luciano continued as Pope. And he names names, but without placing the concrete responsibility for the death of the Pope on any of them. [2]

Q:- And what do you think of the conclusions to which Cornwell has arrived?

A:- The conclusions are the worst part of his book. The best are the interviews. In them, persons who had kept silent for years finally speak. However, the author, whose investigation has lasted one year, seems to ignore the biography of John Paul I. Moreover, with all the backing of the Vatican, he has not been able to get any medical information on Albino Luciani and, nevertheless, he allows himself to affirm that the Pope "was gravely ill". In his conclusions, the greatest distortion of the figure of John Paul I, who had let himself die (forsaking medication) for not considering himself to be capable of being a Pope [3]. I can understand that such a calumny should cause desolation in the Vatican.

At that time, Camilo Bassotto, a personal friend of John Paul I and author of the book 'Il mio cuore è ancora a Venezia' told me: "Some days ago I have spoken with Dr. Da Ros. Obviously, he considers Cornwell's conclusion unthinkable and slanderous. Luciani was very careful, and never forsook his medication. Additionally, Sor Vincenza, who was a nurse, kept control of the medication"

Q:- You have already written a book on this argument, can you synthesize your fundamental thesis?

 A: - In the first place, when John Paul I died a month from his election, questions as fundamental as the following were left without a true answer:  What did he die from? Under what circumstances? What was really his figure? Moreover, the way in which the body was found does not correspond to the typical picture of an infarction, Everything is in order, there has been no fight against death. There is also no symptomatology to disclose it. According to Dr. Cabrera, of the Instituto Nacional de Toxicología. "it could correspond better to a death caused by a depressive substance, occurred during a deep sleep" [5]

In the second place, on the basis that so fundamental and decisive a test as an autopsy was not made (or it was not said it was made), despite so many being the facts, events, and clues which can be understood from this angle: intentionally caused death in the opportune moment. If Luciani´s death was produced from natural causes, then many things turn out to be inexplicable. If it was produced in an intentionally caused form, then everything can be understood. This could be confirmed by a serious judicial investigation.
In the third place, there is the believer's dimension, which assumes, summarizes and transcends all of the above. The testimony of Albino Luciani is a shining light in our time which should not be put under a basket but on a candlestick, even when that makes the flakes and cracks of the house show. Everything which.was intended to be buried with his body has been appearing in diverse forms before the conscience of the Church and the world. God speaks in many ways. If no justice is made to John Paul I, so we believe, it will be held to account.

Q:- What is your personal hypothesis about the facts which developed that afternoon in the Vatican?

A:- According to Gennari, who was a professor at the Diocesan Seminary in Rome, "an autopsy was made" of the body of John Paul I and "from it, it was learned that he had died from a very strong dose of a vasodilator prescribed over the telephone by his former personal physician in Venice" [6] Having contacted Gennari last December, he confirmed this to me, stating additionally that "it had been told to him by a distinguished prelate in the Vatican the same day of the death"

In my opinion, it is quite possible that an autopsy would have been made to John Paul I. This conforms with what Lorenzi told Cornwell: "On the first day, body parts were removed, possibly the entrails, etc." [7] Obviously, this could be confirmed with the opening of the secret files or from the exhuming of the body. It is also possible that he died from ingesting a vasodilator. It is a contraindicated medication for one who has low blood pressure. That would fit with the form in which the body was found: there has been no fight with the death, as corresponds to a death caused by a depressive substance and which occurred during deep sleep.

However, I cannot make myself to believe that Dr. Da Ros, the personal physician of Luciani's, could have prescribed a contraindicated medicine over the phone. He would have denied something that affects him so directly.

Dr. Da Ros, Luciani´s physician speaks

Some days later, on September 1, Tornielli called me again. He was especially interested in the question of whether Dr. Da Ros had visited John Paul I some days before he died. I told him that several sources coincided on that, although ─ obviously ─ nobody better than Dr. Da Ros himself to specify these extremes. But Dr. Da Ros had been silent for fifteen years.

Finally, the issue of 30 Giorni came out. Hardly anything from the interview was published: only the first paragraph, and incomplete at that. It appears mutilated. By the way, reference is missing to very important aspects, as we will see later: the pressures exerted over institutions and persons, the generalized fear of taking a position on the topic, the secret character of the autopsy (if one was ever made) and the obscure financial activities of the IOR.

However, the magazine does present a fundamental contribution: Dr. Da Ros breaks his silence to say, among other things, that the Pope was well and that on that evening he did not prescribe absolutely anything: "Everything was normal: Sor Vincenza did not speak of any particular problems. She told me the Pope had passed the day as usual. We agreed on the next visit, which was scheduled for the following Wednesday". And also "This is another of the falsities that have been built about the death of John Paul I. That evening I did not prescribe absolutely anything, I had seen him five days before and to me he was well. My call was a routinary one. Nobody called me". [18]

Additionally, I was confidentially told: 1) that John Paul I intended to keep Dr. Da Ros as personal physician and had the intention of putting him on the Vatican payroll; 2) that Dr. Da Ros was ignored as personal physician of John Paul I by Vatican medics; 3) that they did not even want to know his clinical history. Consequently, the diagnosis in the death of the Pope was issued with this strange way of proceeding.

A very strong vasodilator dose

In June 1998, in Rome, I could talk with Giovanni Gennari, who is now a journalist with the press service of RAI, the Italian television. Gennari knew Luciani personally and was a friend of Germano Pattaro's, a Venetian theologian who John Paul I had brought to Rome as an advisor.

Gennari confirmed to me what was published by him in 1987, i.e., that an autopsy was made of Pope Luciani and "from it, it was found out that he had died from ingesting a very strong dose of a vasodilator prescribed over the phone by his former personal physician in Venice", that "the Pope had the Vatican pharmacy open at half past ten that night", that "the Pope must by mistake have taken a very high dose which caused a fulminant infarction" [10]. I asked him if his source was reliable. He told me: "to me it is entirely reliable. At seven in the morning, a Benedictine who worked at the Secretary of State with Benelli called me". Benelli was Deputy at the Secretary of State before being sent to Florence as Archbishop and named Cardinal in June 1977. 

Obviously, it was necessary to consult the Pontifical Annuary to find out who had worked then at the Secretary of State, and especially, to verify whether there had been a Benedictine.

As for the rest, that a secret autopsy would have been made agrees with the testimonial of Diego Lorenz, secretary to Pope Luciani: "On the first day (the embalmers) removed parts of the body, possibly the entrails, etc." [11]

Dr. Da Ros did not prescribe anything

I have never believed, I told Gennari, that John Paul I's personal physician, Dr. Da Ros, could have prescribed a contraindicated medication. I also told him that Dr. Da Ros had declared on the matter in September 1993: The pope was well, and he had not prescribed anything that evening.

I commented these matters with Marco Melega, a well known Italian television professional, who, by that time, was preparing a program on John Paul I [12]. He used my book 'Se pedirá Cuenta' as a basis. He had it completely underlined. He made me an interview in that respect and told me that Gennari, whom he had recently interviewed, valued especially my book. In it, as is well known, I do not partake of the idea that "the Pope must have made a mistake", I speak about death caused intentionally in an opportune moment.

I say it because it turns out to be significant. Camilo Bassotto, a personal friend of John Paul I's and main witness of the Venetian source on the dead Pope, values my book especially. He writes to me on Christmas day 1990: "I have read your book. I want to read it again these days and I will tell you what I think of it. I can tell you that I like it already, that it is read with interest and passion. It has an inner rythm that captivates. It is laid out with rigorous logic in the sequential development of the questions. The exposition is clear and comprehension is easy. Dear Jesús, you deserve a 'bravo!'. My congratulations. Your questions are those that have been raised by so many persons around the world. I am sure that it will be answered someday."

The Vatican pharmacy did not send out anything

In Rome, at the Vatican pharmacy, I could also speak with a brother of the order of Saint John of God, José Luis Martínez Gil. He told me the same thing that Brother Fabian had told Cornwell: "Nothing was sent out from the Pharmacy for John Paul I in the entire month". He also told me "The book of the Pharmacy cannot be seen without a special permit from the Secretary of State". My interlocutor had seen it and he could confirm to me the information provided by brother Fabian [13].

A Benedictine might talk

As on other trips, I was accompanied by a couple of the community [14]. So that they may get to know it, we approached the Spanish College, where I had resided from 1965 to 1969 and where I had been ordained as a priest. We said hello to the current rector, Lope Rubio, who kindly looked after us. While there, (it is certainly quite remarkable) the Bishop of Tarazona, Carmelo Borobia, who (additionally!) appears in the Pontifical Annuary of 1977 (and also in the one for 1978) which we subsequently consulted in the library of the College, showed up for a moment to say goodbye to the Rector. Borobia worked then in the Secretary of State. 

In the same page as Borobia [15], appears a Benedictine (Olivetan), the only Benedictine figuring among the Secretary of State personnel: his name is Giuliano Palmerini. I don't know whether, after so many years, any of the two may know something or wish to say it. They are still on time. I published this in an article which made it around the world [16]. They never seemed to have gotten the hint.

Regardless, in my way of seeing it, the hypothesis of an autopsy of John Paul I having actually been made and, according to it, his death having been caused by the ingestion of a very strong dose of a vasodilator, is reinforced. Now, if ─ as we believe ─ his personal physician did not prescribe anything, and the Vatican Pharmacy did not send out anything, it cannot all be explained away as a mistake, as Gennari affirms. We must think of a criminal act. As Dr. Cabrera, of the Spanish National Institute of Toxicology, said to me, "vasodilators produce hypotension. How could a vasodilator have been prescribed to a hypotensive patient, such as Luciani? If one was prescribed to him, no doubt about it, it would be a criminal action" [17] Additionally, that fits well with the condition how Sor Vincenza, the nun who attended John Paul I, found the body: there was no fight against death, everything was in order. Dr. Cabrera also said: "The picture could better correspond to a death caused by a depressive substance, occurred in deep sleep." [18]

The German magazine, Der Spiegel, in an article titled "Tödliche Menge" (Lethal Quantity) dated November 10, 1997, says: "Rome's public prosecutor has now ordered a new investigation of that mysterious case of Pope Luciani's. Now, a mysterious witness holds that years ago, he came to know, from an acquaintance, certain details of the homicide of the popular pastor of the Church. That the man not until now has made himself appear at the courthouse may have to do with a series of articles appearing in the La Padania newspaper ... Prosecutor Pietro Saviotti, who has reopened the case of the death of the Pope occurred in 1978, does not want to say anything about the mysterious witness: It would be too soon" [19]

A scanner for John Paul I

Camilo Bassotto gave me the following version years ago before Bishop Magee publicly recognized ─ in August 1988 ─ it was not he but a nun who had found the body: "I spoke with Sor Vincenza on two occasions. The first time, in front of the provincial. The second, alone. In this latter occasion, Sor Vincenza began crying. I did not know what to do. Sor Vincenza told me the Secretary of State had intimidated her not to say anything, but the world had to know the truth. She considered herself freed from that imposition at the moment of her death (ocurred in 1983). It could then be made known. According to Sor Vincenza, the Pope was sitting on the bed, with his eyeglasses on and some sheets of paper in his hands. His head was inclined to the right and a leg was stretched on the bed. A mild smile seemed to begin. His forehead was warm. When Diego Lorenzi, Sor Vincenza and another nun went to wash the body, upon turning him around his back was also warm. The Pope could have died between one and two in the morning" [20]

And what did he have in his hands? Don Germano Pattaro, distinguished Venetian priest, called to Rome by Luciani as a counselor, said the following: "The papers that Luciani, dead, held in his hands were some notes on a two-hour conversation the Pope had previously had with the Secretary of State, Villot, the preceding afternoon (consequently, not the Imitation of Christ nor the series of other things, notes, homilies, speeches, etc. mentioned on Vatican Radio: too many things to hold between two fingers)" [21]. 

The conversation with Villot had dealt with the important changes which Pope Luciani had intended to introduce. Indeed, according to Gennari, "that afternoon, Pope Luciani was about to make a new organization chart for the top of the Vatican and the Italian Church: dismissal of Villot, and of Colombo, Archbishop of Milan; transfer of Casaroli to Milan (....); Benelli, new Secretary of State; Politi to Florence, and Felici, new Roman Vicar". Pope Luciani presented the new organization chart to Villot, who told him: "You are the Pope. You are free to decide, and I will obey. But be aware that these changes would suppose a betrayal of the legacy received from Paul VI" [22]. Luciani responded: "No Pope rules in perpetuity".

Luciani's sister in law, Antonia, told me in August 1989 while we shared some complaints and some other coincidences: "Actually, we don't know how he has died. And sometimes we have strange thoughts."

It has been recently published that, in 1998, the Vatican analyzed with a scanner the body of Pope Celestine V, mysteriously dead in 1296. A nail was discovered in the skull, which raised the suspicion that the Pope, austere friar (Benedictine as well) in favor of the Vatican adopting a poor lifestyle, could have been murdered. It is surprising that this be done with a thirteenth-century pope while a heavy slab of silence buries the mystery of what really happened with John Paul I. Brasilian Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider has had the courage to break the official silence: "Suspicions continue in our heart as a bitter shadow, as a question to which no answer has yet been given." [23]

It is interesting to note that Wojtyla in 1967, upon having been named cardinal, should have ordered a commission of experts in forensic medicine to investigate the exact way in which the death of Saint Stanislaus was produced. After all, Wojtyla considered himself, as bishop of Krakow, a successor of the martyr saint, and historic truth was due him [24]. But he has not made the same thing with John Paul I, his immediate predecessor as Pope.

[1] Testimonial delivered to the author by Camilo Bassotto, main witness of the Venetian source on Pope Luciani.
[2] See Yallop, D., In God’s name, Corgi Books, London, 1985, 307, 314, 27 y 441. Spanish translation: En nombre de Dios, Ed. Planeta, Barcelona, 1984.
[3] See J. Cornwell, A Thief in the Night. The Dead of Pope John Paul I, Viking, London, 1989, 262 y 265. Spanish translation: Como un ladrón en la noche. La muerte del papa Juan Pablo I, Ed. El País/Aguilar, Madrid, 1989.
[4] See my book Se pedirá Cuenta, 58.
[5] Ib., 34; see p. 56.
[6] See El País, 25-10-1987. From the beginning, there was a current of opinion according to which the autopsy had been made, but in secret. See S. De Andreis-M. Leone, Juan Pablo Wojtyla. Crónica insólita de un papa, Ed. Laia/Paperback, Barcelona, 1980, 160.
[7] See Cornwell, 80.
[8] See A.Tornielli, At nine. the Pope is well, in 30 Giorni 72 (1993), 53-54. As regards the supposed pain in the chest of Pope Luciani in the afternoon of September 28, it is worth noting that: 1) the version given by the secretaries is late  (Lorenzi in 1987, Magee in 1989); 2) they cannot agree as to the exact moment (Magee at 5:30, Lorenzi at 7:45); 3) although he is asked, Magee does not corroborate Lorenzi's versión, he diverts the conversation (Cornwell 198, 190, 209). It can be understood that Yallop speaks on the matter from “pure fantasy” (RAI 2, Giallo, 2-10-1987) and Camilo of “invention” (communicated to the author).
[9] Given in trust to the author by Camilo Bassotto.
[10] See El País, 25-10-1987.
[11] Cornwell, 80.
[12] It refers to the RAI 2 program, Mixer,14-3-1994.
[13] See Cornwell, 249.
[14] Carlos and Carolina.
[15] See Anuario Pontificio 1977, p. 989.
[16] The artícle is titled: ¿Fue asesinado Juan Pablo I? (Was John Paul I murdered?), en El Mundo, 27-9-1998.
[17] See my book Se pedirá Cuenta, 56.
[18] Ib., 34.
[19] See Luigi Incitti, L’immolato Giovanni Paolo I, 129-132.
[20] Se pedirá Cuenta, 28.
[21] Ib., 35.
[22] Gennari, G., Rivelato il problema che angosciò Luciani poco prima della morte, in Il Giornale Nuovo, 18-10-1981.
[23] See El Mundo, 8-8-1998.
[24] Szulc,T., El papa Juan Pablo II, Ed. Martinez Roca, Barcelona, 1995, 36.

Return to Prologue

Translator's note: After having finished and posted the translation of this chapter and the prologue, I happened to find that an English translation of the entire book is available here. So I decided it is not necessary for me to finish translating the rest of the chapters.

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