Dark Cloud hung over Pope John Paul II Papacy

By Sinclere Lee

–From the moment that Pope John Paul II took control of the Catholic Church, a dark cloud of murder has hung over his papacy. Remember, Pope John Paul II was not the first choice to become pope in 1978. John Paul I was elected the true pope and through some mysterious circumstances he died after a month in office and was replaced by John Paul II.

There is still a great mystery surrounding the untimely death to John Paul I, but the main theory about the reason for his murder is that he had promised to rid the church of all homosexual priests, and do an audit of the Vatican Bank, where millions were missing. Whatever the case, Pope John Paul I was murdered and some believe that Pope John Paul II was behind the dirty deed.

Pope John Paul I’s quick death, only 33 days after his election, caused worldwide shock. The official cause of death specified by the Vatican was a myocardial infarction, or a common heart attack. However, this is uncertain to some extent because no autopsy was performed.

The Vatican's reporting of the events surrounding his death raised major issues when it was found to contain several falsehoods concerning the identity of the person who found the body, the time of death, the book he had been reading and the alleged disappearance of personal property. Conflicting stories were told as to his health. It was hinted that his ill health was due to heavy smoking; in fact he never smoked. The impact of this misinformation was shown in a headline of the Irish Independent newspaper, "THIRTY-THREE BRAVE DAYS" conveying the image of a weak and ill man physically unable to withstand the pressures of the papacy, and who was in effect killed by it.

The pope's body was embalmed within one day of his death. Wild rumors spread. One rumor claimed that a visiting prelate had recently died from drinking "poisoned coffee" prepared for the pope. A visiting prelate actually had died some days earlier, but there was no evidence of poison. Another unsubstantiated rumor described the pope's plans to dismiss senior Vatican officials over allegations of corruption.

The sudden embalming raised suspicions that it had been done to prevent a post-mortem. However the Vatican insisted that a papal post-mortem was prohibited under Vatican law. This too was later revealed to be incorrect: in 1830 a post-mortem was carried out on the remains of Pope Pius VIII, yielding evidence that suggested Pius VIII had been poisoned.

John Paul's death is featured in the movie The Godfather, Part III which insinuates that he was murdered after discovering discrepancies in Church funds. The movie inaccurately depicts the year of his death as 1979 instead of 1978.

Now, cardinals, archbishops and diplomatic dignitaries solemnly filled the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace to pay their respects Sunday to Pope John Paul II, his body dressed in red and white papal robes with his bishop's staff under one arm.

The pope's body will be moved Monday to the Sala Bologna at St. Peter's Basilica, where the pontiff will lie in state until his funeral, to be held in four to six days.

The pope died from septic shock and cardiocirculatory collapse, the Vatican said Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, tens of thousands of mourners filled St. Peter's Square for the first of nine elaborate Masses marking the death of the pope.

"We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, Lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II who for 27 years guided the universal church as the successor of Peter," said the Mass's celebrant, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Sodano said he was at the pope's bedside as he died, and that the pontiff died serenely.

"Serenity is the fruit of faith," he added.

Elsewhere, other bishops and cardinals uttered similar words praising the life and papacy of the man who came to Rome as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla at age 58, leaving the city Saturday evening at 84.

"Pope John Paul has finished the course, has run the race, has kept the faith," said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, at Westminster Cathedral in London. "Farewell, Pope John Paul, as the thoughts, the memories and the prayers of the world and of all Christian people go with you."

Rome police, who are used to handling large throngs at the Vatican, were bracing for up to 2 million people during that city's three days of official mourning through the time a new pope is announced.

As condolences poured in from around the world, plans also were being laid for the pope's burial and the selection of his successor.

The first General Congregation of Cardinals was to meet at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) Monday in the Apostolic Palace to make decisions on the burial time and other details.

The Vatican has not said if John Paul II left instructions for his funeral or burial. Most popes have asked to be buried below St. Peter's Basilica. But the Polish-born pope may have wanted to be laid to rest in his homeland.

Within 20 days of John Paul II's death, Catholic cardinals from across the globe will gather to participate in a sacred ritual that, for many of them, could be a once-in-a-lifetime event -- the election of a new pope.

There were 24-hour vigils and special services in many major cities following the pope's death Saturday night.

"I feel like a daughter who lose her father," one young woman told reporters in St. Peter's Square.

The 84-year-old pope died Saturday night in his private apartment.

The pope's condition began deteriorating rapidly Thursday, after a urinary tract infection caused a high fever and led to septic shock and collapse of his cardiocirculatory system.

He suffered from a number of chronic illnesses, including crippling hip and knee ailments and Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that can make breathing and swallowing difficult.

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd," U.S. President George Bush said at the White House, with his wife, Laura, standing alongside him. "The world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home.

"We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders."

Bush ordered the U.S. flags at all federal buildings and facilities to be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of the pope's interment.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he felt privileged to have met the pope.

"Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself," Annan said.

Lech Walesa, who led Poland's Solidarity movement to power after a decade of struggle, said the Polish-born John Paul inspired the drive to end communism in Eastern Europe.

"[Without him] there would be no end of communism or at least [it would have happened] much later, and the end would have been bloody," Walesa said. "I have a very strange feeling of loss. I almost feel as though one of my family members has gone," evangelist Billy Graham told CNN's Larry King Saturday night.

"I loved him very much, and had the opportunity of discussing so many things with him, and we wrote each other several times during the years."

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, said in a written statement that he had "deep appreciation for the pope's mission to bring peace to the world.

"In spite of increasing age and declining physical health, his relentless efforts to visit different parts of the world and meet the people who lived there to promote harmony and spiritual values, exemplified not only his deep concern but also the courage he brought to fulfilling it."

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