Albino Luciani

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Person.png Albino Luciani  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(religious leader, Pope)
Ioannes Paulus I, by Fotografia Felici, 1978.jpg
Born17 October 1912
Died28 September 1978 (Age 65)
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Cause of death
heart attack, poisoning?
CitizenshipVatican City
Victim ofpremature death
Pope John Paul I

Employment.png Pope Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
26 August 1978 - 28 September 1978
Pope John Paul I

Pope John Paul I (born Albino Luciani) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 26 August 1978 to his sudden death 33 days later. Following contradictory reports about the circumstances of his death and apparent anomalies about the issuing of the death certificate and other procedures, several conspiracy theories have gained currency.

Life and Work

He was the first pope to have been born in the 20th century. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent year of three popes and the first to occur since 1605. John Paul I remains the most recent Italian-born pope, the last in a succession of such popes that started with Clement VII in 1523. Politically Albino Luciani had been a staunch supporter of the Christian Democrats in their common anti-communist struggle.


John Paul I was elected to the pontificate on August 26, 1978, at age 65, and enthroned on September 3, 1978. He died on the night of September 28, 1978 in the Vatican after a pontificate of 1 month and 2 days, i.e. 33 days and 6 hours. The body of the Pontiff was found dead in his bed by Sister Vincenza Taffarel, who as usual brought him her coffee around 4:45 a.m. in the cabinet adjoining her room[1]. The official version attributes his death to a heart attack or a uremic attack. Rumors began to circulate as soon as the news of his death is announced, amplified by the fact that the body of the late pope was not autopsied and that the Vatican struggled to produce a death certificate.

Repeated questions raise doubts about the discovery of the pope's body by Sister Vincenza Taffarel[2], on what he was reading before his death, and on the fact that his body was quickly embalmed, making any autopsy impossible[3], fueling conspiracy theories associated with the Vatican bank which owned many shares of Banco Ambrosiano.

On the other hand, even if the death appeared sudden, Pope John Paul I was ill. When he had just been elected pope against his will, his personal doctor Mario Fontana, the old doctor at the head of the Vatican health service, had retired and his successor, Doctor Renato Buzzonetti, still on vacation, had not yet taken office. The Pope's medical file had therefore not yet reached him. However, the Pontiff absolutely had to be followed since he had already been eight times in the hospital and had undergone four operations, in particular for embolism problems, which obliged him to take anticoagulants[4]. It is thus quite possible that, the day before his death, under the effect of overwork, the Pope neglected to take his anticoagulant treatment, which triggered a fatal thrombosis[5]. In addition, the day had been hard and the Pope had been particularly shaken up in the evening by a long phone call with the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, about appointments of Italian cardinals, that reinforce his stress[6].

Alternative theories

Several writers have looked at the subject and

David Yallop

David Yallop's 1984 best seller In the Name of God, proposed the theory that the pope had been in "potential danger" because of corruption in the Vatican Bank (known officially as the Institute for Works of Religion or Istituto per le Opere di Religione), the Vatican's most powerful financial institution[7] which owned many shares in Banco Ambrosiano. The Vatican Bank lost about a quarter of a billion dollars.[8]

This corruption was real[9] and is known to have involved the bank's head, Bishop Paul Marcinkus, along with Roberto Calvi of the Banco Ambrosiano. Marcinkus, at the time head of the Vatican Bank, was indicted in Italy in 1982 as an accessory in the $3.5 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano.[10] Calvi was a member of P2, an illegal Italian Masonic lodge.[11] He was found dead in London in 1982, after disappearing just before the corruption became public. His death was initially ruled suicide and a second inquest – ordered by his family – then returned an open verdict.[12]

Yallop believes John Paul was killed by digitalis-induced cardiac poisoning. His thesis is based on indirect evidence, the reliability of which he claims to have scrupulously verified. The author admits that he has no evidence and points to the so-called smoking gun ("smoking gun", decisive evidence of the crime) in the notes the pope was reading just before he died[13]. They notes have been lost and, in according to Yallop, would have been maliciously stolen from the pontiff's room, along with glasses, a will, a pair of slippers and a pack of Effortil (a drug indicated in the treatment of hypotension). Yallop indicates the purpose of these removals is the concealment of a crime, and that Cardinal Villot, who rushed into John Paul I's room already at 0500, was the one who removed them.

Upon publication of his book, Yallop agreed to donate every penny he made from sales to a charity of the Vatican's choice if they agreed to investigate his central claim, that when the body of the pope was discovered, his contorted hand gripped a piece of paper that was later destroyed because it named high-ranking members of the curia who were Freemasons and others who had a role in numerous corruption scandals and the laundering of mafia drug money. One of the names believed to be on the paper was that of Bishop Paul Marcinkus, who was later promoted by Pope John Paul II to Pro-President of Vatican City, making him the third most powerful person in the Vatican, after the pope and the secretary of state. None of Yallop's claims, which are unproven, has thus far been acknowledged by the Vatican, although Yallop disclosed the amount of Masonic Lodge members from the Curia, whom he alleged to be Freemasons, within the pages of his book.[14] There is a papal ban of Freemasonry, and it is forbidden by Church law for a Roman Catholic to be a Freemason.

Yallop specifically summarized his theory in his book: Three archbishops—Marcinkus, Villot and Cody—conspired with three Mafia types—Calvi, Sindona and Gelli—in the murder of John Paul I. “It was clear that these six men—Marcinkus, Villot, Cody, Calvi, Sindona and Gelli—had a great deal to fear if the papacy of John Paul I should continue… all of them stood to gain in a variety of ways if John Paul I should suddenly die.”[15]

John Cornwell

In his book A Thief in the Night, British historian and journalist John Cornwell examines and challenges Yallop’s points of suspicion. Yallop’s murder theory requires that the pope’s body be found at 4:30 or 4:45 a.m., one hour earlier than official reports estimated.[16] He bases this, inter alia, on an early story by Vatican Radio and the Italian news service ANSA that garbled the time and misrepresented the layout of the papal apartments. Yallop says he had testimony from Sister Vincenza Taffarel (the nun who found the pope's body) to this effect but refused to show Cornwell his transcripts.[17]

Abbé Georges de Nantes

Theologian Abbé Georges de Nantes spent much of his life building a case for murder against the Vatican, collecting statements from people who knew the pope before and after his election. His writings go into detail about the banks and about John Paul I's supposed discovery of a number of Freemason priests in the Vatican, along with a number of his proposed reforms and devotion to Our Lady of Fátima.[18]

Lucien Gregoire /Avro Manhattan

Lucien Gregoire's investigations (published 2017[19]) claim to continue the work of Avro Manhattan, whom he says died under strange conditions while visiting his family home in the UK. Avro Manhattan linked the CIA to the murder of John Paul I. “The CIA resolved to destroy John Paul I before he would destroy a Vatican subservient to the will of the USA.”[20]

In September 1978, with the growing likelihood that U.S President Jimmy Carter would cut off funds to strongman Anastasio Somoza, the CIA feared if Nicaragua fell to the Marxist Sandinistas, the USA would soon be looking at a half-dozen mini-Cubas in Central America.[21], and they needed a hard-liner in the Vatican to crush the liberation theology movement. Suspected CIA covert agent, the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal John Cody visited the Polish cardinal (John Paul II) in Krakow during the papacy of John Paul I.[22]

Gregoire claims that Manhattan's death is one of many others close to or supportive of John Paul I. Gregoire draws up a list of around 30 suspicious deaths, including Paul VI, the Primate of Belgium Léon-Joseph Suenens, the young Metropolitan of Leningrad Boris Gueorguievich Rotov and many former members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

Gregoire builds on his forerunners, benefiting by events not available to the others when they wrote their books. “I owe a great debt of gratitude to my predecessors... had Yallop not laid out the blueprint, had Cornwell not told the truth, had Manhattan not struck on the plot; I could have never written my book.”[23]

What Gregoire brings to the table is the complete record of the courts that tried the bank scandal—from the first transaction that took place on October 22, 1978 six days after John Paul II took office which investor was first contacted on September 15, 1978 midway thru the papacy of John Paul I,[24] to the last transaction in 1981 when Banco Ambrosiano was caught funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through the Vatican Bank to Nicaragua and Panama to the benefit of Somoza and the Contras and to a lesser extent Solidarity.[25]

Hence, Gregoire’s conspiracy theory: ”The conspiracy that planned the Vatican-Ambrosiano Bank Scandal[26] was the same conspiracy that plotted the murder of John Paul I.”[27]

Anthony Raimondi

In his book published in 2019, Anthony Raimondi, a nephew of Lucky Luciano, says he helped his cousin Archbishop Paul Marcinkus kill the pope by force-feeding the latter with valium. The reason given was that John Paul had allegedly threatened to expose "a massive stock fraud run by Vatican insiders". Raimondi says that plans were made to also assassinate John Paul II had the latter decided to expose the fraud. Raimondi says that "If they take [the pope’s body] and do any type of testing, they will still find traces of the poison in his system."[28]


  1. Aldo Maria Valli, Le Petit Monde du Vatican, Tallandier, 2012, p. 77.
  4. Bernard Lecomte, La mort de Jean-Paul Ier, Perrin, 2009, p. 9.
  5. John Cornwell, A thief in the night : the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I, Simon & Schuster, 1989, p. 57.
  6. Bernard Lecomte, La mort de Jean-Paul Ier, Perrin, 2009, p. 11.
  15. In God’s Name June 1984, David Yallop. p. 6
  17. |work=New York Times
  18. Search for "Luciani"] at CRC
  19. Lucien Gregoire; The Vatican Murders
  20. The Dollar and the Vatican 1988 Avro Manhattan p.147
  21. The Harvard Crimson September 19, 1978 Carter Must End Aid to Somoza
  22. In God’s Name 1984 David Yallop. p. 189
  23. The Vatican Murders 2017 Lucien Gregoire p. 217
  24. Tribunal Latour vs. Ambrosiano, Paris 22 Oct 1985
  25. The Vatican Murders 2017 Lucien Gregoire p. 403
  26. Banco Ambrosiano swindled investors of $1.3 billion routing it through the Vatican Bank to the Contras to crush Liberation Theology (Marxist revolution of the poor) in Central America
  27. The Vatican Murders 2017 Lucien Gregoire p. 9