John Paul I was pope for a mere 33 days before he was found dead in his bed, aged 65. Numerous oddities, inconsistencies and unanswered questions have given rise to theories that dark forces conspired to murder him…
On September 27th 1978, Pope John Paul I was found sitting up in bed like he’d been reading, dead. His papal reign was one of the shortest of all time.
But the circumstances of the pope’s death were – and still are – incredibly murky. This is thanks to lots of conflicting statements about when and who found his body; if and what the pope was reading before he died; and the lack of any autopsy to confirm the cause of death.
Some witnesses stated that Pope John Paul I’s body was discovered at 5.30am by the pope’s private secretary, John Magee. Others state that the body was found at around 4am by a nun, Sister Vincenza Taffarel. There was disagreement, too, about the time and cause of death. A statement put out by the Vatican said that he’d died of a heart attack, while some witnesses said that he actually died of a pulmonary embolism. The Vatican statement said he’d died at 11pm the previous night; other witnesses said he died only a few hours before he was found.
What’s more is that Pope John Paul’s health basically couldn’t have been better. He drank very little, had a long history of low blood pressure and was a lifetime non-smoker. All the witnesses, including his own doctor, said that he was in perfect health. His brother said that he had an “iron health”. His doctor said, “He’s not well, he’s very well. I talked to him the night before. He seemed fine and didn’t mention any problems.”
Has there ever been a person more unlikely to suffer a sudden, fatal heart attack?
Spanish priest Father Jesus Lopez Saez and historian John Julius Norwich argue that a heart attack being the cause of death could not have been properly determined without an autopsy.
Yet was no autopsy – the Vatican decided not to conduct one. Apparently they tried to argue that autopsies on popes were not allowed. Since autopsies had been carried out on other popes, this was a flagrant lie.
What was he reading?
The official story from the Vatican is that Pope John Paul I went to bed to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. This book was in the pope’s hand when he was found dead in his bed.
However, Sister Vincenza said that she found the pope with “papers” in his hand. She didn’t specify what these papers were, but The Imitation of Christ is a book, a book she probably would’ve described as such. These “papers” sound like something else entirely.
Some have theorised that these papers might’ve contained certain names, names of people suspected of being involved in the corruption within the Vatican Bank. Or they might’ve been an agenda detailing the pope’s next actions to be taken against the bank.
This leads nicely onto potential motives. David Yallop in his 1984 book In God’s Name said the pope knew about the corruption in the Vatican Bank and was planning to make a move against those responsible. He said that one of the names on the papers in his hand was Paul Marcinkus, head of the bank. Marcinkus had been accused of being in collusion with Roberto Calvi, chairman of the bank Banco Abrosiano, which had been laundering drug money for the Mafia. The Vatican Bank had shares in Banco Abrosiano and was also accused of secretly funding rebel groups through it. After this scandal came to light, Yallop named Marcinkus as a possible accomplice in Pope John Paul I’s murder. He believed the pope was poisoned with digitalis.
The Vatican has maintained its silence over the issues surrounding the pope’s death for decades now. Why so much inconsistency? Why no autopsy?
I suspect foul play. Everything sounds off to me. Unfortunately, without more evidence, it’s a skeleton in the Vatican’s closet that looks destined to remain there. We may never know what really happened in Pope John Paul I’s bedroom on September 27th 1978…
Perhaps Dan Brown would like to have a stab at this one.