Monday, April 04, 2005

Pope John Paul (the first)

With the death of Pope John Paul II, I was thinking back to when he was first elected and the circumstances around the 33-day tenure of his predecessor, Pope John Paul. It's not that my memory is failing, but it was a long time ago. The only thing I could remember about John Paul was that he was part of the storyline in The Godfather Part III. So I looked him up in Wikipedia.
His quick death, only 33 days after his election, caused worldwide shock. The official cause of death specified by the Vatican was a myocardial infarction, or a common heart attack. However, this is uncertain to some extent because no autopsy was performed. The Vatican raised major issues over the handling of the events surrounding his death; it lied about who found the body (it claimed a papal secretary, in fact it was later revealed that he was found by a nun in the Papal Household who had come to bring him some coffee), lied about the time, that personal property of his (his glasses, his will, documents he was working on when he died) disappeared from his bedroom and was never found. (In fact that was shown to be untrue. His possessions are in the possession of his sister's family.) It claimed he had been reading Thomas à Kempis's Imitation of Christ but his copy of that was still in Venice. Conflicting stories were told as to his health. It was hinted that his ill-health was due to heavy smoking; in fact he never smoked. The impact of this misinformation was shown in a headline of the Irish Independent newspaper, "THIRTY-THREE BRAVE DAYS" conveying the image of a weak and ill man physically unable to withstand the pressures of the papacy, and who was in effect killed by it.
The plotline in The Godfather Part III had the Vatican Bank heavily involved in organized crime and Pope John Paul I was threatening to expose the corruption.

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