Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on Marcinkus

The New York Times gives a rundown of the archbishop's life.

The Telegraph in its article is a bit more conspiratorial.


Four people are currently on trial in Italy charged with murdering Roberto Calvi; there had been speculation that the accused might attempt to call Marcinkus as a witness, although his diplomatic status would have made this difficult.

Despite the efforts of prosecutors in several countries, Marcinkus was never questioned about claims of money laundering, shell companies, the collapse of the Vatican Bank or the death of Calvi.

Some even implicated Marcinkus in the supposed murder of Pope John Paul I, who died a month after his election in 1978. The motive for murder was allegedly the Pope's determination to clean up the Vatican's finances.

According to David Yallop, whose book In God's Name (1984) articulated the theory of John Paul I's "murder": "Marcinkus is a crook, a criminal, a man who in the normal world would have served a long prison sentence for his part in a whole array of financial crimes."

Marcinkus always denied any wrongdoing. On his departure from Rome, he had provided journalists with his own candid epitaph: "I have no doubt that I will be remembered as the villain in the Calvi affair."

To what extent he was villain or dupe remains unclear; he himself was never willing to assist those who attempted to shed light on the issue.

The BBC's Vatican correspondent shares several anecdotes, including one of the archbishop's sense of humor.


In May 1982 we, the Vatican's international press corps, were back on the road again, this time in Portugal, where John Paul II visited the Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary at Fatima to offer thanks for what he regarded as a miraculous escape from death.

After worshipping at the shrine, the Pope narrowly escaped another attempt on his life.

A Spanish priest who, it later transpired, was suffering from serious psychiatric problems, suddenly lunged at him with a knife.

Marcinkus, at the Pope's side as always, threw himself on the assailant who was quickly handed over to Portuguese police.

I rang the archbishop later that evening to check reports that were coming out about the incident.

"No," he told me, "nothing happened."

The following day local TV transmitted pictures of the priest brandishing a knife at the Pope and we all saw how the archbishop had apparently saved the Pope's life.

Marcinkus came the following night to the Lisbon hotel where the Vatican press were staying.

I asked him to clear up the discrepancy between what we had all seen on TV and his previous denial that anything had happened.

"Oh, you know," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "you can't always believe everything you see on TV."

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