Debunk the conspiracy theories

Debunk the conspiracy theories


This coming Tuesday, August 26, will mark the 30th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul I, who brief reign lasted only one month before his untimely death. Yet for all the brevity of his papacy, the controversy surrounding his death has lived on in the intervening decades. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the pope either murdered or even committed suicide, all of which is nonsense. Nevertheless, that has not prevented hucksters from advancing their claims. The most prominent book on the subject is by David Yallop, called In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, first published in 1984 and released in a new edition in 2007. The infamous John Cornwall, author of the execrable Hitler’s Pope, has also weighed in with his tome.

Meanwhile, Lori Pieper, who blogs at “Lori’s Pilgrimage”, has been investigating John Paul I’s death for almost as long, even writing an as-yet unpublished manuscript. So now she is publishing her refutations of the conspiracy theories on her blog in time for the anniversary. The first part is online at Was Pope John Paul I Murdered? (Part I)

Many of the people who were close to Pope John Paul I have always been reluctant to talk about the controversy surrounding his death. This is not because they want to conceal anything, but rather because they are weary of being questioned on the subject. They wonder why there is so much interest in the theory that the Pope was murdered and so little in his life. They feel betrayed by those who have distorted the facts they have provided in order to write scandalous books, and angry because those who read these books seem to be more interested in sensationalism than they are in the truth. When I spoke with the Pope’s brother and sister-in-law and his secretaries, Father Lorenzi and Father Senigaglia, about his death back in 1985, they told me that they were afraid that attempting to refute these lies would only add to the furor, and that no one cared about the truth anyway.


It’s time to reclaim the truth about Pope John Paul I, né Albano Luciano, Servant of God who cause for beatification is ongoing. The life of holiness of the Pope should be what we remember, not this other silliness.

Photo is in the public domain. Via Wikimedia.

Image Credit

  • popejohnpauli.jpg: Holy See | Public domain
  • The best explanation I’ve heard of the indisputably staged death scence was not as a murder cover-up, but as some incredibly dumb guesses at improving the PR impact of, on the one hand, a pope found dead on the bathroom floor in his jammies, and a pope found serenely asleep with a pious book in hands. The very worst of Italianate “bella figura”, I grant, but all the more plausible for that reaosn.

  • Dom, thanks so much for linking to me!

    Ed, I think if you read what I wrote, you’ll have a better idea of how the various stories got started. The truth was, there wasn’t any detailed story officially put out by the Vatican. The “Imitation of Christ” story, for example, really got started as speculation in the Vatican Press Office.

    As for him being found on the bathroom floor – this was attributed to Sister Vincenza, but never verified, and neither was the idea that he died at his desk. She herself, in her accounts to the Luciani family, to her intimates, and in an interview with a Venetian author not long before her own death, she always stuck to the same story about finding the Pope in bed.

    The only coverup really perpetrated by Cardinal Villot, the camerlengo, was in concealing the fact that a woman had been in the Pope’s bedroom and had discovered his body. And that story crashed and burned in just a few days. It’s impossible to keep a real coverup going for long, I think.

    But the important thing is that John Paul I’s real legacy should be kept alive and not derailed by sensationalism.