Introduction: The movie “The Da Vinci Code” has focused public attention on the Opus Dei order, a reactionary Catholic organization with strong historical links to fascism. Highlighting its influence on the current pope and his predecessor, this program sets forth some of the areas of influence of this secretive organization. Playing a significant role in the rise of John Paul II through the Vatican hierarchy, Opus Dei was accorded special stature by the Pope once he was in office. Likewise, Opus Dei appears to have heavily influenced the elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy and appears to be wielding great influence over access to the Pope. In addition to reviewing Opus Dei’s collaboration with international fascism, the broadcast sets forth the significant influence of Opus Dei on the U.S. Senate debate on the same-sex marriage bill. An area of speculation concerns the Opus Dei role in the Vatican Banking scandals of the early 1980’s, and the possible influence of P-2 Lodge Grand Master Licio Gelli on the “investigation” of the shooting of John Paul II. Opus Dei was apparently involved in the maneuvering around the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano. The re-opening of the investigation into the murder of Ambrosiano chairman and P-2 Lodge member Roberto Calvi has featured the indictment of Lico Gelli. Shortly after Gelli’s testimony in the Calvi case, the would-be assassin of the Pope was released from prison, and Italy and Poland resurrected the discredited “Bulgarian Connection,” alleging that the former Soviet Union shot the Pope.
Program Highlights Include: John Paul II’s beatification of the founder of Opus Dei, as well as Archbishop Stepinac (a member of the fascist Croatian parliament during World War II); the influence of Opus Dei on reactionary governments in Latin America; the influence of Opus Dei on Princeton University; the striking influence of Benedict XVI’s personal assistant Georg Ganswein (an Opus Dei professor) on the papacy. Be sure to check out the influence of Opus Dei on the family of Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife. This is documented in FTR#422.
1. The program begins with discussion of Ratzinger’s close relationship with his papal predecessor. The broadcast notes their strong affinity through reactionary theological principles. As we shall see, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been greatly influenced by Opus Dei. Note the nickname ‘Panzerkardinal’ bestowed on Ratzinger by fellow priests.
“ . . . The Pole and the German have been called intellectual bedfellows. For almost 20 years, the two met at least once a week, usually Fridays, for a 90-minute discussion of doctrine and discipline. A working lunch followed, lasting often until late in the afternoon. A theological liberal of sorts in his youth, Ratzinger was later nicknamed the ‘Panzerkardinal’ for his iron hand in bringing Marxist priests in Latin America and clerics with mushy views on sexual ethics to heel. . .”
(“Analysis: Ratzinger in the Ascendance” by Uwe Siemon-Netto; [United Press International]; The Washington Times.)
2. The broadcast reviews some of the fascist connections of Opus Dei.
“But it was not only the inevitable intrigue in Rome that left its mark. Back in Spain, Opus Dei members were making rapid advances in the Franco government under Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, an Opus Dei sympathizer who, as premier, virtually ran the country. Until Carrero’s assassination in 1973, Opus Dei leaders were arguably the strongest conservative political influence in Spain.”
(People of God; by Penny Lernoux; Copyright 1989 by Penny Lernoux; [HC] Viking [Viking Penguin Publishing Inc.]; ISNB 0-670-81529-2; p. 314.)
3. As mentioned above, John Paul II was profoundly influenced by Opus Dei. More about John Paul II’s intimate relationship with Opus Dei can be found in paragraph #10. “Matters changed radically when John Paul became pope. Opus Dei had courted the pope since his days as archbishop of Krakow. He had been invited to speak at various Opus Dei centers in Europe and at an event in Rome. The speeches were later made into a book, copies of which were sent by Wojtyla to the Vatican Secretariat of State. In 1978, when he was in Rome for the funeral of John Paul I, Wojtyla visited Opus Dei’s mansion to pray at the black marble crypt of ‘El Padre,’ who had died three years earlier. Monsignor Portillo, his successor and, by some accounts, the brains of Opus Dei, was welcomed at the Vatican by the new pope, who in turn was invited to visit Opus Dei’s house and centers.” (Ibid.; p. 315.)
4. Among the many shores upon which the waters of Opus Dei have lapped is that of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and the P-2 Lodge. As will be seen below, the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and the other Vatican banking scandals are on the front burner once again, with a murder trial now underway for the killers of Roberto Calvi. (For more about the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, see—among other programs—AFA#’s 17-21, 32, 34, and Miscellaneous Archive Shows M60, M61, available from Spitfire, as well as FTR#’s #’s 43, 59, 70, 71, 80, 81, 98, 185, 213, 217, 221, 229, 237. For discussion of the intersection of the P-2 milieu with that of Al Qaeda, see FTR#’s 342, 359, 360, 377.)
“Opus Dei was drawn into that imbroglio [the P-2 lodge scandal] by assertions that it had been negotiating with Roberto Calvi, head of Milan’s Ambrosiano Bank and a key figure in P-2, regarding a possible bailout for Ambrosiano that would save the Vatican Bank financial losses and embarrassment arising from its dealings with Calvi. The banker’s body, either murdered or a suicide, was later found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London. His widow maintained that he had been in touch with Cardinal Palazzini, the Opus Dei sympathizer in charge of Escriva’s beatification process, about the rescue operation, presumably to be carried out with the help of Opus Dei members who owned or controlled banks in Spain. The trade-off, according to Vatican observers, was to have been a takeover by Opus Dei members of the Vatican Bank and the Vatican Radio controlled by the more progressive Jesuits. Letters were found on Calvi from Francesco Pazienza, a Calvi aide with links to Italian and U.S. intelligence, in which Pazienza referred to contacts between Palazzini and Calvi.” (Ibid.; pp. 317-318.)
5. Opus Dei wields great influence in Latin America.
“At the start of 1983, Opus seemed poised for a major expansion based on papal favor and its new status as a prelature. Its main base remained in Spain, where it raised the largest contributions and enjoyed the most substantial political and economic influence, but the movement also gained members and influence in Italy . . .It was also strong in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. Opus Dei members and sympathizers supported the CIA-backed coup that overthrew Chilean president Allende, and one of them Hernan Cubillos, became General Pinochet’s foreign minister. Cubillos, who founded Que Pasa, a magazine under Opus Dei influence, was later identified as an ‘important’ CIA agent by the Los Angeles Times.” (Ibid.; p. 318.)
6. “In Chile, Peru, and El Salvador, Opus Dei provides invaluable support to right-wing political groups through its religious courses and schools, and through newspapers, magazines, and television outlets influenced or owned by members. ‘It serves a function for the political right and power holders,’ said a student of Opus Dei activities in Latin America. . . .A Spanish priest made a similar observation about the influence of Opus Dei bankers and industrialists in Europe: ‘They want to stop the growth of socialism and pacify the labor movement through religion.” (Ibid.; p. 319.)
7. One of the indications that the late Pope John Paul II’s alleged anti-Nazi sentiments are mythological is the fact that he beatified Archbishop Alois Stepinac (a member of the fascist Ustachi parliament in Croatia during World War II), as well as Father Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of the Opus Dei sect. (For more about the fascist connections of Opus Dei, see—among other programs—FTR#422.) As discussed in FTR#422, Opus Dei was involved with the aforementioned Banco Ambrosiano scandal as well. “Pope John Paul II has created a record number of saints during the 22 years he has reigned as head of the Catholic Church. He has bestowed sainthood on almost 300 respected figures from the Church’s long history who displayed ‘heroic virtue’ during their lives. He has beatified about 800 more, putting them on the road to becoming saints.”
(“Removing the Politics from Sainthood” by David Lloyd; Vision: Foundation for a New World; 3/9/2000; p. 1.)
8. “Often his choices have been controversial and viewed as political statements. In 1998, his decision to beatify the Croatian Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac received much criticism from Orthodox Serbs and Jews. Stepinac was archbishop for Zagreb during World War II and afterwards was accused of collaborating with the Nazis in their massacre of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in Croatia. In 1992, he beatified Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish founder of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei—a movement widely viewed with suspicion as a secret society. . . .” (Idem.)
9. Opus Dei, whose founder, Father Escriva de Balaguer, praised Hitler and was an ardent admirer of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, appears to have been a major player in the election of Ratzinger. “ . . . Several European cardinals are sympathetic to Opus Dei, among the Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian prelate who runs the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the pope, and a contender to succeed John Paul. Ruini last year opened proceedings to declare Opus Dei’s Del Portillo a saint. But recently, several Italian newspapers breathlessly reported that the two Opus Dei cardinals were throwing their support behind the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German-born traditionalist who has served as chief enforcer of church doctrine for two decades.”
(“Controversial Opus Dei Has Stake in Papal Vote” by Larry B. Stammer and Tracy Wilkinson; The Los Angeles Times; 4/19/2005; p. 2.)
10. Ratzinger/Benedict’s friend and predecessor John Paul II elevated opus Dei. More about John Paul II’s close relationship to Opus Dei is contained in paragraph #3.
“Opus Dei flourished during John Paul’s pontificate. In 1982, he took the unprecedented step of making Opus Dei a personal prelature of the church, answerable not to local bishops in the dioceses where it operated, but to the pope alone. In another sign of the group’s influence, the pope placed Opus Dei’s founder, the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, on the fast track to sainthood in 1992, leapfrogging over Pope John XXIII. In 2002, Escriva was canonized before a crowd of 300,000 in St. Peter’s Square, becoming St. Josemaria a mere 27 years after he died. . . .” (Idem.)
11. Next, the program accesses an article that indicates that Opus Dei wields a profound influence on Benedict XVI. His personal secretary—who appears to be something of a gatekeeper or “gray eminence”—is a teacher at an Opus Dei theological college. Georg Ganswein appears to effectively control access to Benedict XVI. Note the “Aryan” looks of Ganswein. Is he “Underground Reich”? (For information indicating that Benedict/Ratzinger may very well be Underground Reich, see FTR #508. For an overview of the fascist/Vatican connection, see FTR#532.)
“As Benedict XVI trundled through the narrow streets of Cologne last week, many of his admirers found themselves distracted by the extravagantly handsome man sitting in the back of the Popemobile. The thousands of adoring young Catholics had come to Germany to get a glimpse of the new Pope, visiting his native country on his first trip abroad as pontiff. But they couldn’t help noticing the Pope’s new – and rather dishy – private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gänswein. ‘As he jumped on to the Popemobile for the first time,’ one German magazine remarked, ‘we women held our breath. There, where for the past 27 years the grim and pale Stanislaw Dziwisz had sat behind the Pope, a tall, blond, athletic young man had taken his place.’”
(“Thou Shalt Not Drool” by Luke Harding and Barbara McMahon; The Guardian; 8/23/2005.)
12. “Over the past four months, the Italian press has also swooned over the 49-year-old German priest, who is known in Italy as Don Georgio. In the gray and elderly world of the Vatican, it is hardly surprising that Gänswein – a keen tennis player and excellent skier who even has a pilot’s license – has become the center of attention. Last month, the Italian edition of Vanity Fair compared Gänswein to the actor George Clooney, while the magazine Chi opened that he was ‘as fascinating as Hugh Grant’. The Italian president’s wife Franca was very taken with him when she first met him. ‘He’s very, very young. And he speaks excellent Italian,’ she was reported as saying. Another woman living close to the Vatican recently told Germany’s ARD TV that Gänswein was ‘an interesting man with a deep gaze’, adding: ‘Shame that he is taboo for us women.’” (Idem.)
13. “Some Vatican-watchers, however, are already muttering about Gänswein’s influence over Pope Benedict, the first German to sit on the chair of St Peter for nearly 500 years. Born on July 30 1956, Gänswein grew up in Riedern am Wald, a tiny Bavarian village. He was ordained in 1984 and is a doctor of canon law from Munich University. He came to Rome in 1995 and was quickly on the Vatican fast track. In 1996, the then Cardinal Ratzinger asked him to join his staff, and he became a professor of canon law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an institution affiliated to the secretive Catholic movement Opus Dei. [Emphasis added.]” (Idem.)
14. “Those who know him praise his efficiency and analytical ability. ‘He understands complicated issues within about 10 seconds and can give a clear and immediate answer,’ one Vatican source said. Gänswein is, though, more than just an impressive theologian. He is, like the man he serves, extremely conservative. ‘I think he is very dangerous,’ Daniel Deckers, the author of a biography of Germany’s leading liberal cardinal, Karl Lehmann, said. ‘He’s part of a small but very powerful group within the Catholic church. He will use his power to push Ratzinger in a certain direction.’ Deckers recalls travelling to Rome to meet Gänswein. ‘He’s a good guy. He’s very eloquent and can be very charming. But he came right up to me and said: ‘Oh, you don’t like us.’ He referred to himself and Ratzinger as ‘us’, as if the two of them were an institution.’” (Idem.)
15. “With Gänswein as private secretary, there seems little hope that Benedict XVI will offer concessions on issues that alienate many from the Catholic church – the use of condoms, gay relationships or pre-marital sex. ‘You can forget it,’ one religious affairs writer said bluntly. A trusted confidant of the last Pope, who made him a chaplain in 2000, Gänswein has worked as Ratzinger’s secretary since 2003, and was one of the few aides allowed to give out press statements on John Paul’s condition. In the Vatican, Gänswein and Ratzinger dine together, recently entertaining Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, the German socialite, according to reports in the Italian press. In Cologne last week, Gänswein was never far away from his boss – handing the 78-year-old Pope his reading glasses, or traveling with him on a cruise down the Rhine. He was there, too, when the Pope appeared on a hill beneath a flying saucer-shaped dome, for a vast open-air mass. (In his address to nearly 1 million pilgrims who had spent the night camped out in a muddy field, the Pope reminded the young Catholics that they had to obey all of the church’s rules – not just the bits they liked. ‘That basically means no sex, doesn’t it?’ German pilgrim Malte Schuburt, 19, pointed out.)” (Idem.)
16. “Gänswein’s critics even accuse him of turning the Pope into a fashion victim. This summer, Ratzinger and his secretary went on holiday to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, as well as to the Italian Alps at Valle D’Aosta. While both men were hiking in the hills, the Pope appeared in public wearing a Nike hat, designer Serengeti sunglasses and a Cartier watch. ‘This is Gänswein’s style. It’s his handwriting,’ one religious affairs writer said. ‘This is something I don’t understand.’ Gänswein’s power derives partly from his place in the Pope’s very small personal staff. Benedict’s long-time assistant is Ingrid Stampa and he has four women – Carmela, Loredana, Emanuela and Cristina – who do domestic duties. They have taken nun’s vows but do not wear habits. Pope Benedict writes everything in German in very small script, and Gänswein is one of the few who can read his writing.” (Idem.)
17. It appears that Ganswein embodies the reactionary ideology of Opus Dei and that he will use his influence with Benedict XVI to further that ideology.
“So far, Gänswein does not enjoy the same power as Stanislaw Dziwisz, who spent 40 years at Pope John Paul II’s side. Some have even dismissed him as the ‘Black Forest Adonis’. Yet it is Gänswein who decides who gets to see the Pope, and who doesn’t. [Emphasis added.] He also protects his boss from the mound of papers on Benedict’s desk. ‘He is the Pope’s gatekeeper. This makes him a very powerful man,’ Deckers said. It is not surprising, then, that the Pope’s private secretary is already beginning to inspire dread in liberal Catholic circles. In Germany, the Catholic Church is divided more or less between two figures – the liberal-conservative Cardinal Lehmann, the head of the German archbishop’s conference, and the ultra-conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the Archbishop of Cologne. Both men were with the Pope last week. But it is no secret as to which Bishop the Vatican favours. ‘Gänswein is an opponent of Lehmann,’ one source in the German Catholic Church said. ‘One of Ratzinger’s great weaknesses is that his judgment of people isn’t always sufficient. He has a small out-reach.’ Last week’s papal tour of Germany was an undoubted success for the Bavarian Benedict. A far less flamboyant figure than his predecessor, Benedict was often embarrassed by the euphoric crowds. But he is a formidable intellectual, able to deliver his ideas with fluency and rigor in numerous languages. The question remains though – how long will he last? The Pope has already suffered two strokes – one of which slightly impaired his eyesight – and he has a heart condition. Don Georgio is said to be very protective of the Pope, particularly about his health. But if there is bad news to transmit, it will be Gänswein, the priest with the film-star looks, who will be there to deliver it.” (Idem.)
18. Next, the program accesses information about Opus Dei influence on the recent U.S. Senate debate about a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Opus Dei convert Senator Sam Brownback (Republican from Kansas), introduced into Senate debate on same-sex marriage some talking points from a paper crafted by an Opus Dei affiliate at Princeton University.
“The United States Senate is often called ‘the greatest deliberative body in the world’ which usually raises the bar on the tenor and intellectual content of speeches given on the floor and for the official record. Not so for Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) who took to the Senate floor last week to deliver a strident push for the bigoted Marriage Protection Amendment, with massive distortions of the issue and an argument that was based almost solely on the opinion of a little-known, conservative think tank affiliated with the Roman Catholic organization, Opus Dei .”
(“Is Brownback Bringing Opus Dei Into The Senate?” By Bob Geiger.)
19. “‘The problem we have in front of us is the institution of marriage has been weakened, and the effort to redefine it on this vast social experiment that we have going on, redefining marriage differently than it has ever been defined before,’ the Kansas Senator grimly intoned last week. ‘This effort of this vast social experiment, the early data that we see from other places, harms the institution of the family, the raising of the next generation. And it is harmful to the future of the Republic.’ Brownback then went on to give figures for how various states have shown their hatred of gay people with their own prohibitions on same-sex marriage and used that as his rationale for a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Brownback really hit his stride when he described a paper, called ‘Ten Principles on Marriage and the Public Good,’ published by a fairly new and extremely conservative group at Princeton University. According to Brownback, the paper is an ‘… important statement of principles from top American scholars [to] be considered carefully by my colleagues.’ He then added that the sentiments expressed in the non-scientific treatise were so vital to our national dialog that they should ‘. . . help guide our debate on this issue.’ The paper, sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton, makes a case for banning same-sex marriage altogether. What’s extraordinary, is the idea of a United States Senator attempting to sway opinion on an amendment that would have altered our Constitution (had it not been defeated last Wednesday) by using a paper from an organization linked to Opus Dei, a strict, religious group that some former members have described as a cult.’” (Idem.)
20. Brownback accessed information from a paper issued by the Witherspoon Institute, whose president (Luis Tellez) is the head of Opus Dei at Princeton. “Brownback spent a good part of his lengthy Senate speech last week citing the study and attributing it to ‘this Princeton group of scholars’ while never mentioning that all of the findings were based on the ultraconservative Witherspoon Institute bolstered by the involvement — directly or indirectly — of a nonprofit, tax-exempt religious organization in Opus Dei. So what exactly is the Witherspoon Institute, whose paper formed the foundation of Brownback’s anti-gay argument? The Institute, which has only been around since 2003, has close ties to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, but is also tightly aligned with Opus Dei. Indeed, Luis Tellez, the president of the Witherspoon Institute is also the director and lead cleric of Opus Dei in Princeton. Since its founding in 1928, Opus Dei has been known for its traditionalist values and right-wing political stances. And critics in academia — which include former members who sometimes go through ‘deprogramming’ upon exiting Opus Dei — charge that organizations like the Witherspoon Institute are just veiled attempts by Opus Dei to spread its influence in top-tier academic circles. So why then, is a U.S. Senator offering to Congress ‘research’ linked to Opus Dei on something as vital as amending the Constitution? It turns out that Brownback, who was formerly an evangelical Protestant, converted to Catholicism by way of Opus Dei in 2002 and was sponsored in that conversion by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a vocal Opus Dei advocate.” (Idem.)
21. Tellez–the head of Opus Dei at Princeton—is among that reactionary organization’s most conservative members.
“Tellez, the leader of Opus Dei in Princeton, is a ‘numerary,’ considered the most conservative of the sect’s members — they are unmarried, celibate, devote every aspect of their lives to their spiritual beliefs and turn over their salaries from secular jobs to Opus Dei. Again, it bears repeating that Tellez is also the head of the Witherspoon Institute, the group Brownback cited at great length as his primary argument against gay marriage. And remember also, it is Brownback, as an Opus Dei convert, who also leads the charge on Capitol Hill against abortion and stem cell research and who, along with Santorum, is seen by the Religious Right’s as a point man on ‘culture war’ issues. The other central figure in the Witherspoon orbit is Dr. Robert George, a Princeton professor and a board member in the Institute who, not coincidentally, helped draft the federal gay-marriage ban that was just defeated in the Senate. George chaired a meeting of religious leaders in late 2005, which included Dr. James Dobson and other members of the extreme Religious Right. In fact, in addition to his pivotal role in the Witherspoon Institute, George is also a board member at Perkins’ Family Research Council, a group known for its bigoted positions on the gay community. And, via Brownback, all of this is ultimately finding its way into the halls of Congress.” (Idem.)
22. “While it may not be technically illegal for Brownback to be so clearly mixing hard-right religious ideology — and faux-academic papers promoted by religious organizations like Opus Dei — with debate on the Senate floor, it should certainly raise some eyebrows. In a country where strict separation of church and state is mandated, it seems Brownback is freely blending the two, attempting to use religious dogma to influence public policy — all the while not disclosing to his Senate colleagues the background sources of the research he is citing. But this should not be surprising coming from Brownback. In a January 2006 Rolling Stone article, ‘God’s Senator,’ Brownback is described as a religious zealot with a view for America’s future that could almost be described as medieval. ‘In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years — schools, Social Security, welfare — will be privatized or simply done away with,’ reads the article. ‘There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.’ After all, it was Brownback, who came to Congress in 1994 and refused to sign Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract With America’ because he felt it wasn’t conservative enough. Even then, as a newcomer to the House of Representatives, Brownback believed that the vast majority of what he saw as Big Government should simply be eliminated, including the departments of education, energy and commerce.” (Idem.)
23. Opus Dei convert Brownback has been leading the charge on “family values” in the Senate.
“And, yes, it was also Brownback who was so outraged at the split-second glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipple during the 2004 Super Bowl, that he introduced the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which substantially raised fines for such simple on-air displays of nudity. Finally, in addition to being brought into Catholicism by the likes of Opus Dei and using laundered research by an affiliated group on the Senate floor, Brownback chairs a meeting every Tuesday night with the ‘Values Action Team,’ consisting of religious leaders like Dobson who help the Senator formulate his thoughts on public policy issues. According to Time magazine , Opus Dei has assets in the neighborhood of $2.8 billion and, with John McCain unlikely to significantly rouse the Religious Right in 2008, look for Brownback to be the guy that Opus Dei, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council turn to as their presidential candidate. . . .” (Idem.)
24. Updating a story Mr. Emory has covered for more than two decades, the program notes that P-2 Lodge grand master Licio Gelli has been indicted for the murder of Roberto Calvi, the head of the Banco Ambrosiano. For more about the P-2 Lodge, the Vatican banking scandals and the Vatican/fascist connection, use the search function on this page, taking particular note of AFA#’s 17-21—available from Spitfire—as well as FTR#’s 504, 508.) In paragraph , we noted the alleged role of Opus Dei in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal.
What influence might Gelli’s testimony have had on subsequent events? Might the resurrection of the Bulgarian hypothesis have had something to do with Gelli’s testimony? (The Bulgarian hypothesis—long discredited but resurrected in Italy and Poland earlier this year—alleges that the Soviet Union had the pope shot, in order to negate his activism on behalf of the Solidarity Union in Poland.)
“Magistrates investigating the death of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 are focusing on Licio Gelli the former ‘grand master’ of the illegal P2 Masonic lodge that plotted against Italian democracy in the 1970s. Mr Gelli denies he was involved but has acknowledged that the financier, known as ‘God’s banker’ because of his links with the Vatican, was murdered. He said the killing was commissioned in Poland.”
(“Mason Indicted over Murder of ‘God’s Banker’” By John Phillips; The Independent; 7/22/05.)
25. In the aftermath of Gelli’s testimony about the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, Mehmet Ali Agca—convicted would-be assassin of the Pope –was released from prison. Agca was a member of the Pan-Turkist fascist group the Grey Wolves. (For more about the fascist influence on the Pan-Turkist movement, see FTR#549.) “After 25 years behind bars for trying to assassinate Pope John Paul II and fatally gunning down a journalist, Mehmet Ali Agca was released from prison — and promptly gave his supporters and his enemies the slip. Within hours of tasting freedom Thursday for the first time since wounding John Paul in 1981, Agca disappeared out the back door of a military hospital. He left behind hordes of journalists, along with questions about whether he will be forced to complete the mandatory military service he dodged as a young man. Scores of ultranationalist right-wing supporters cheered his release and tossed flowers at the sedan that whisked him through the gates of a high-security prison. But many Turks expressed dismay that Agca, 48, served just five years for the slaying of newspaper columnist Abdi Ipekci in 1979, during a time of street violence between rightists and leftists. Justice Minister Cemil Cicek ordered a review to see whether any errors were committed in releasing him. He said Agca would remain free until an appeals court reviewed the case. ‘If there is an error, that would damage Turkey’s image’ as the nation pushes to join the European Union, said Ilter Turan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Bilgi University.”
(“Turk Who Shot Pope John Paul II is Released from Prison” [AP] 1/12/2006.)
26. “‘Day of shame,’ headlined the daily Milliyet, Ipekci’s newspaper. Cicek said Agca’s release was not ‘a guaranteed right,’ noting there have been several cases in which convicts freed by mistake were returned to prison. He said Agca benefited from amnesties, passed by previous governments, which have freed tens of thousands of criminals over the past decades. Agca, white-haired and wearing a bright blue sweater and jeans, was freed five years after he was pardoned by Italy and extradited to Turkey. He had served 20 years in Italy, where John Paul forgave him in a visit to his prison cell in 1983. . . .” (Idem.)
27. Shortly after Agca’s release from prison, an Italian parliamentary body endorsed the long-discredited Bulgarian hypothesis. Note that the commission was headed by an ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi was a former member of the P-2 Lodge, headed by Licio Gelli.
“It has persisted as one of the most mysterious cases of international intrigue in recent times: Who shot the pope? A committee of Italy’s Parliament investigating the 1981 attempt to assassinate John Paul II released its conclusion Thursday that ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’ the Soviet Union ordered the attack that seriously wounded the pope as he greeted crowds in St. Peter’s Square. The Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, was long ago condemned in the shooting and served 19 years in jail. But for whom he worked has never been definitely established. His own confessions have been all over the map; he has variously implicated the Soviets, the Bulgarians and others.”
(“Soviets Behind Pope’s Shooting, Italy Panel Says” by Tracy Wilkinson; Los Angeles Times; 3/3/2006.)
28. “Rumors about the intellectual authors of the attack have circulated for years, but pinning it directly and finally on the Soviet Union would be a first. Sen. Paolo Guzzanti, president of the parliamentary committee, told reporters that the Soviet military intelligence agency, the GRU, ‘took the initiative to eliminate’ the pope. According to Italian media, the report says the Soviets had decided that Jon Paul, a fervent anti-communist, had become dangerous in his outspoken support for the Solidarity protest movement in his native Poland. Solidarity’s activities eventually helped precipitate the fall of communism there in 1989. In those Cold War years of intrigue and deception, the shooting of the pope was tangled in a web of secret agents, proxy gunmen and the life-or-death struggle who would dominate the world.” (Idem.)
29. It is alleged that the interrogation of Carlos the Jackal yielded some information about the shooting of the Pope. Carlos the Jackal—as discussed in FTR#453—is a protégé of Nazi operative Francois Genoud. Might the far right have influenced this resurrection of the Bulgarian hypothesis, utilizing the milieu of Carlos? (Genoud died in 1996.) Note also that the head of this commission—Mr. Guzzanti—is a political ally of former P-2 member Silvio Berlusconi.
“Committee staff members said the report was based on evidence presented at a host of Italian trials through the years connected with the shooting, including one that probed the Turkish mafia and another the purported involvement of the Bulgarian secret service. In addition, France’s noted anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, reportedly shared evidence with the Italians that sprang from the prosecution of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, alias Carlos the Jackal, the notorious terrorist held in France since his capture in Africa in 1994. . . . Guzzanti, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia (Go, Italy) party, said he launched the new investigation after John Paul’s last book before his death spoke of the assassination attempt and his conviction that someone beyond Agca had ‘masterminded and commissioned’ the attack. [Emphasis added.]” (Idem.)
30. Shortly after the Italian investigation, a Polish inquiry headed in the same direction. Again, what influence might Licio Gelli’s testimony have had on the resurrection of the Bulgarian hypothesis? What might Gelli –dubbed the “Puppet Master” by the Italian media—have disclosed or threatened to disclose? If anyone could be said to know “where the bodies are buried”—literally in this case—it is Gelli.
“Investigators in Poland said Monday they have opened an inquiry into a suspected plot behind an assassination attempt on late Polish-born Pope John Paul II in 1981. ‘The inquiry is not into the attack itself but into a plot by communist (secret) services,’ said Ewa Koj of Poland’s National Remembrance Institute (IPN), which is charged with prosecuting Communist and Nazi crimes. Koj, head of the IPN’s investigative department in the southern city of Katowice, told the PAP news agency the inquiry aimed to probe suspected involvement by several countries in planning the assassination attempt on the pope. The IPN has previously said that it does not have direct proof that Polish Communist-era secret police took part in the attack. Charges that the Soviet Union and then-communist Bulgaria organized the attack over John Paul’s support for the Solidarity trade union movement in his native Poland were never proved. In March, the head of an Italian parliamentary commission accused leaders of the former Soviet Union of ordering the assassination bid.”
(“Poland Opens Inquiry into 1981 John Paul II Death Plot”; TurkishPress.com; 6/12/2006.)