In the years since the death of Pope John Paul I, the Roman Catholic pontiff who reigned just 33 days, conspiracy theories o’ plenty have abounded, including some which claim that the 65-year-old Bishop of Rome was murdered by individuals within the Vatican itself.
As the New York Times wrote in a 1989 review of a book alleging intrigue in John Paul I’s death:
“Within hours of his being found dead, allegedly sitting up serenely in bed holding a devotional book in his hands, the clerical rumor mills began grinding, churning out tales of murder plots, of the involvement of high-ranking prelates afraid that the new Pope might expose their profitable intrigues, and of their complicated and contradictory cover-up maneuvers.”
Wild talk even went so far as to speculate that the pontiff was a victim of the Vatican’s so-called inner sanctum, the dreaded P2 Masonic lodge, or that the Jesuits spiked his cocoa with digitalis.
However, a church official advocating sainthood for John Paul I, who died of a heart attack in September 1978, said extensive research efforts “definitively” put the conspiracy theory to rest, according to Agence France-Presse.
Monsignor Enrico dal Covolo said that documents and 167 testimonies he has collected for a report submitted to the Vatican on Wednesday dismissed “any suspicion of a murder” of the pope.
The report, known as a “position,” is an important precondition in the Catholic Church for candidates for first beatification and then canonization.
Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul I, born Albino Luciani in northern Italy and known as the “smiling pope” for his kindly parish priest demeanor.
Testimonies collected by Covolo show he was already suffering from poor health when he was elected pope in August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI.
John Paul I was found dead shortly before dawn on Sept. 29, 1978. It was later determined that he had died the night before.
(Above: Pope John Paul I shortly before his death speaking to his soon-to-be successor, then-Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła.)