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Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Date Posted:

Worker Priest Christ

Paul VI and the murder of Aldo Moro: the sleeping past stirs

British Church Newspaper – 10 November 2006
Dr Clive Gillis

THE ELDERLY, Italian politician, Giulio Andreotti, recently published what might seem to be a trivial revelation. But, for Vatican watchers, anything he says is noteworthy. Andreotti was born in 1919. He was a fanatical Christian Democrat, the party that helped Rome to impose her political will on Italy and across Europe.  He reached the zenith of his political career in the post war era when the Christian Democrats flourished, particularly in southern Italy, with the help of Mafia alliances.  Cunning and power hungry, Andreotti was called ‘Mr Italy’, ‘The Power broker’ and ‘Eternal Giulio’.  He served in almost every Christian Democratic government from the war until 1992 and was seven times Italian Prime minister between 1972 and 1992. He knew the five post war popes, Pius XII, John XXII, Paul VI, John Paul 1, and John Paul II, intimately. 

He is a devout Roman Catholic, attending mass daily, sleeping little, and an able historian. 

Andreotti has twice faced charges of complicity with the Mafia.  Mafia supergrass Antonio Giuffre heavily indicted him.

A journalist was killed in an accident in the late 1970s who was about to publish certain damaging criticisms of Andreotti made by Christian Democratic leader Aldo Moro.

Moro was subsequently murdered by the Red Brigade and it is the circumstances of Aldo Moro’s murder that interest us here. But first we must look at the background of these events.

Post‑war popes Pius XII, the wartime Pope, was pro-Washington and when he died so did the Vatican’s intimate relationship with America.

Cardinal Spellman and the two Romanists American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and his brother Allen, head of the CIA, were suddenly dumped.

John XXIII, who followed Pius XII, could be described as pink rather than red.  He was elected in favour of controversial, Russian speaking, Georgian born Cardinal Agagianian who happened to have attended the same Jesuit seminary as Stalin.

But John XXIII’s successor, Paul VI, was frankly pro‑communist.  He had been groomed as a potential pope by a faction in the Vatican from WWII. He promoted communism both within Italy and outside it.

Italians have a curious affection for communism.  This is a reaction to the papacy in their midst.  Paul VI mobilised radical socialists and Marxists, the world over, in a socialist Catholicism serviced by “worker priests”.  He published an encyclical Progressio Populorum openly espousing communism and condemning “the imperialism of money”.  He popularised the people’s Christ through his obessions with modern art (see illustration).

Aldo Moro

We return to the murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro.

On March 16th 1978, Moro was kidnapped on his way to a session of the house of representatives in Italy.  The Communists and Christian Democrats were expected to co‑operate in times of national crisis and Moro had produced a Compromesso storico or ‘historical compromise’…....

But the Red Brigade, a group of fanatical Leninist guerrillas, seized Moro in broad daylight in central Rome, his escort of five being openly murdered.  After 54 days Moro’s corpse was dumped half way between the Christian Democrat and Communist HQs.  This was a symbolical way of rejecting Moro’s plea, made in the course of over 50 letters he had written from the Red Brigade’s “peoples prison”, that if freed he would found a party of a ‘middle way’, that is, mid way between the Christian Democrats and the Communists.

America’s Cold War rules were simple but strict ‑ Washington would not allow a party which even allowed a residual allegiance to Moscow to govern a western country.  Conspiracy theories therefore abound implicating the CIA and its secret NATO arm, Gladio, in the affair.

The Pope offers a ransom

So where was the Vatican’s hand in all this?  The only official public response was in L'Osservatore Romano of 31st March when the Holy See offered its help in this “most painful occurrence”.  But behind the scenes the Pope was a main player. According to the Pope’s Secretary, Macchi, Paul VI wrote to Moro’s wife on the 16th May, informing her of his “special prayer” to the Lord.  Next day Paul VI briefed Cardinal Villot, Vatican Secretary of State, to inform Andreotti that he, “had invoked divine protection upon this dear nation to rediscover the force and courage to construct a social peace”.  At this time the Pope’s Secretary, Macchi, developed the habit of “almost every evening coming to my (Andreotti’s) home so he would be able to keep the pontiff up to date ... study possible moves and mutually cheer us,” said Andreotti.  And Andreotti needed cheering, pressed as he was to exchange Moro’s life for the freedom of several imprisoned Red Brigade members.  This was illegal and impossible to square with his incessantly repeated vows “the state must not bend” to terrorists.

However another politician had recently been released following a deal with terrorists and Andreotti’s was accused of not agreeing to the exchange in order conveniently to rid himself of a political rival. 

On 22nd March, Paul VI sent Macchi to tell beleaguered Andreotti that he was willing to pay “a large ransom” in exchange for Moro being released within Vatican City.  But the Red Brigade didn't seem interested.

The Pope desperate

So the Red Brigade spurned the Red Pope. After Easter, increasingly desperate, Paul VI grovelled to the Virgin publicly in St Peter's Square, “We do not despair, we pray: Holy Virgin, Queen of the Heavens, Give strength to our intercession [and] to your prayers”.

Moro was able to send a letter to the Vatican imploring the pope’s help on 20th April.  The pope replied two days later. Macchi, the Pope’s Secretary, reproduces his actual letter.  The pope demanded Moro must be liberated semplicemente senza condizioni ‑ simply without conditions ‑ yet in reality secret plans for a papal ransom were already afoot.

From then on the Vatican lost its grip.  Paul VI was near death when he presided at Moro’s funeral mass, boycotted by Moro’s family.  “In bitter voice,” he blasphemously berated God and the Virgin for deserting him.  “Lord Hear us. Who is it that can listen again to our lament if not you, O God of life and death? You have not answered our prayers for the safe deliverance of Aldo Moro...”. 

His god having failed him during Moro’s life, Paul VI prayed for the dead man’s soul.  A little later he commented, “it is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God”. 

Paul VI health failed rapidly and he was dead by 6th August.  A website keeps alive the view that the Pope actually died earlier and a double kept this from the world.  The Pope had good reason to be bitter.  Had Moro been released Paul VI’s letter demanding unconditional release would have stood as a demonstration of red papal power.  And even if the secret ransom story had leaked out, a dignified silence would have enabled him to ride the storm.

Andreotti’s statement

This brings us to Andreotti’s recent, sudden statement.

Pius VI’s Secretary, Macchi, had published a book‑diary entitled, Paul VI and the Tragedy of Moro ‑55 Days of worries, endeavours, hopes and absurd cruelties.

Andreotti’s has now stated, “There is only one omission in (Macchi’s) book, no mention of the possibility of a ransom that the Holy See was very ready to pay”. Yet on page 21 Macchi had clearly stated,  “The pope gave the disposition to retrieve the necessary sum [for the ransom].”

Andreotti now blames the final failure of the ransom plan on a go‑between, a “character with a criminal record” who promised what could not be delivered.

But Andreotti himself is still scarred with accusations of letting Moro die for his own ends.  Indeed Moro told the Red Brigade interrogators that Andreotti was “cold, impenetrable ... without a moment of human pity”.  So Andreotti then seeks his own rehabilitation, insisting he agonised “almost every evening” over Moro’s plight.  Andreoth maintains he did all he could.

So we are to believe that Paul VI, Macchi and, despite all evidence to the contrary, Andreotti, all sought to serve Moro to their uttermost in their varied stations.

What does all this mean?  The Pope moves heaven and earth to save Moro.  Macchi praises the Pope.  Andreotti praises the Pope to the heavens and Macchi to the skies.  And Andreotti serves Paul VI one final time by trying to relieve him of the stigma of initiating a ransom.

The club

Elderly Andreotti reveals, in his Macchi obituary, the reason for still trying to ingratiate himself with the trio ‑ Pope, Macchi and Moro.

He tells us that on every August 6th, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Paul VI is remembered in St Peters. Apparently the ravages of time have left, “some gaps among us old members of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students;” that attend this event.  This fall in numbers is not due to the “August heat” (lack of zeal) or “fading memory”.  Rather, “One by one we return - let us hope ‑ to Our Fathers House [in heaven].  The new devotion to the Merciful Jesus increases ones hope that things won’t go badly [for us when we die]”.

In other words, purgatory looms for Andreotti.  Moreover, Paul VI, Moro, Macchi and Andreotti are, or were, all linked by an indissoluble tie which Andreotti has now betrayed.  They were ideologically welded and driven Italian Roman Catholics, destined for high office from university onwards.  Their membership of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students was an unbreakable lifetime bond between them.  They, with other members of the same circle, drove a political agenda that bound Italy with absolute and unshakeable ideological loyalty to the papacy for decades, regardless of the consequences.

Andreotti has done his best to flatter their memories and clear his own name before the bar of history. And perhaps before he meets them again.

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