Category Archives: Religion & Spirituality

Mystery deepens around Vatican scandals

Globe and Mail | May 28, 2012

by ERIC REGULY

ROME — The rapid-fire ouster of the chief of the Vatican bank and the arrest of the Pope’s butler have plunged the Vatican into yet another crisis. Were the two events connected?

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, was fired last Thursday for a variety of alleged sins, including “progressively erratic behaviour,” by the bank’s board of superintendence. Two days later, Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s butler since 2006, was arrested for the unauthorized possession of sensitive Vatican documents.

The firing and the arrest have, at least on the surface, plunged the Vatican into one of its worst crises since Benedict became pontiff in 2005, only to find himself scrambling to clean up the church’s sexual-abuse mess.

But sources close to the Vatican say that while last week’s events were embarrassing to Benedict, they are evidence that he is working hard to clean up the Vatican bank and other nooks and crannies within the church’s Rome headquarters.

“Transparency is the issue,” said a Vatican source, who did not want to be named. “He wants the bank to be clean.”

The Vatican’s media office insists there is no link between the firing of Mr. Tedeschi, who is a former executive of Santander, Spain’s most successful bank, and Mr. Gabriele. But both men are accused of at least one similar offence – leaking documents.

Mr. Gabriele was formally charged with stealing confidential papal documents and passing them to the news media. Some of the documents obtained by the Italian press in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal reportedly related to the Vatican bank’s halting efforts to comply with international standards to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

Many of the documents found their way to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi whose book, Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, was published shortly before the ouster of Mr. Tedeschi.

Among the nine allegations made in support of Mr. Tedeschi’s firing was his “failure to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last know to be in the President’s possession,” according to the two-page, no-confidence resolution written by Carl Anderson, a member of the bank’s board of superintendence, and obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The Vatican is investigating the leaks that created turmoil within the its ranks since last year. The Italian news media have suggested that the leaks are part of a power struggle designed to discredit Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict’s right-hand man and head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The Vatican source suggested that Italian banks might be exploiting the leaks related to the Vatican bank itself. He noted that the banks would love to pick up some of the Vatican bank’s activities, should scandal force it to shrink. “Italian banks might be trying to discredit [the Vatican bank] in order to get its business,” he said.

The Vatican bank has its roots in the 1800s and came into its present form in 1942, under Pope Pius II. The secretive bank manages billions of euros in assets, including the Vatican’s vast portfolio of real estate and other investments. At times, it has been run by a professional chief executive plucked from the banking industry, and reports to a committee of cardinals who in turn report to the pope.

The bank is no stranger to scandal or political controversy. John Cornwell, one of the leading authorities on Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, wrote in his book The Pontiff In Winter, that there are “indications” the Vatican bank funnelled $50-million (U.S.) to Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s. Mr. Cornwell cited rumours that the delivery man was Roberto Calvi, the Banco Ambrosiano chairman who was found hanged under London’s Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

Mr. Calvi was called “God’s Banker” because of his close association with the Vatican bank and its boss, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was known as the “Pope’s Gorilla” for his tough mannerisms. The Vatican was implicated in Ambrosiano’s fraudulent bankruptcy in 1982. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the Vatican paid $240-million to compensate Ambrosiano’s account holders.

Mr. Tedeschi was hired in 2009 to modernize the Vatican bank and make it transparent to the point it would comply with international banking standards. The bank’s goal was to make the “white list” of states that comply with the transparency requirements set out by the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation. They are designed to fight tax evasion, money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The need to clean up the bank was highlighted in 2010, when Italian prosecutors, on suspicion of money-laundering violations, seized €23-million ($29-million U.S.) from a Rome bank account registered to the Vatican bank.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr. Anderson, the Vatican bank board member, said Mr. Tedeschi was ousted because he “was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work with senior management.”

On Monday, the Vatican denied Italian media reports that a cardinal was among suspects in the leaked documents’ scandals. The Vatican source, however, said that more arrests in the Vatileaks affair might be coming.

Vatican forced to deny senior cardinal is mastermind of Vatileaks scandal


Paolo Gabriele, front left, has worked for Benedict XVI for five years Photo: EPA

The Vatican has been forced to deny that a senior cardinal is the mastermind behind the so-called Vatileaks scandal that has seen the Pope’s personal butler arrested.

Telegraph | May 28, 2012

By Nick Pisa, Rome

Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s official spokesman, was forced to speak out after several Italian newspapers claimed that the brains of the operation – where potentially embarrassing Vatican documents found their way into the Italian press – was an unidentified “prince of the church.”

Speculation has continued to gather pace that senior Church figures are behind the leaking of sensitive Vatican documents and that butler Paolo Gabriele, who has worked for Benedict XVI for five years, is nothing more than a scapegoat. Gabriele was arrested last week after documents were found inside his Vatican apartment.

Several Italian newspaper carried an interview with an anonymous whistle-blower who explained why the documents were being leaked.

“There’s a group of us: the real brains behind it are cardinals, then there are monsignors, secretaries, small fry”, the informer said.

“The valet is just a delivery boy that somebody wants to set up. Vatican intelligence has security systems more advanced than anything the CIA has but cardinals are still in the habit of writing their messages by hand and dictating them.

“It’s open warfare, with everyone against everyone else. Those doing it are acting to protect the Pope.”

He added: “There are those opposed to the Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. And those who think that Benedict XVI is too weak to lead the church. And those who think that this is the time to step forward. So it’s become everyone against everyone.”

The source also explained how Benedict had gathered a select group of five people to act as his eyes and ears within the Vatican “to protect himself”.

Within hours of the interview being published Father Lombardi issued a denial categorically stating “no cardinal was involved and no one else is under investigation.”

Elsewhere Cardinal Robert Sarah, 67, head of the Pontifical Council Cor Um, which handles church missions around the world was the first senior figure within the Curia to speak out about the scandal.

“Let’s hope that the arrest of the butler is an isolated case and that there are no other traitors plotting in the Vatican,” he said. “There is much sadness. It is painful to see someone like the Holy Father betrayed by someone who is so close to him.

“However it would be even more serious if other accomplices came to light. That’s why we must let the magistrates investigate fully to clarify this shocking situation and until then nothing can be excluded including a plot or some other guided hand.”

Missing girl buried in murdered mobster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties


Emanuela Orlandi, 15, went missing in Rome in 1983. Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother said it was time for the Vatican to come clean about what it knows of Emanuela’s disappearance

Daily Mail | May 22, 2012

By Nick Pisa

The Catholic Church’s leading exorcist priest has sensationally claimed a missing schoolgirl thought to be buried in a murdered gangster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 85, who has carried out 70,000 exorcisms, spoke out as investigators continued to examine mobster Enrico De Pedis’s tomb in their hunt for Emanuela Orlandi.

Last week police and forensic experts broke into the grave after an anonymous phone call to a TV show said the truth about Emanuela’s 1983 disappearance would be ‘found there’.

And although bones not belonging to the mobster were recovered they have not yet been positively identified as hers.

However Father Amorth, in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, said: ‘This was a crime with a sexual motive.

‘It has already previously been stated by (deceased) monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.

‘I believe Emanuela ended up in this circle. I have never believed in the international theory (overseas kidnappers). I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation.

‘It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.’

Today there was no immediate response from the Vatican to Father Amorth’s claims.

But Vatican officials insisted they had always co-operated with the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance – a claim that her brother has often disputed.

Father Amorth is a colourful figure who in the past has also denounced yoga and Harry Potter as the ‘work of the Devil’. He was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

It is not the first time Father Amorth has raised eyebrows with his forthright views – two years ago he said sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence ‘the Devil was at work in the Vatican.’

In 2006, Father Amorth, who was ordained a priest in 1954, gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

According to secret Vatican documents recently released the then wartime Pope Pius XII attempted a ‘long distance exorcism’ of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.

Charismatic mobster De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee’s daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

At the time of his funeral there were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church chiefs allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant’Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because prison chaplain Father Vergari told bishops that De Pedis had ‘repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity,’ including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the £12,000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant’Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city’s famous Campo De Fiori.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a ‘free hand’ because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980’s probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God’s Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person’s programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi’s kidnap would be solved ‘if De Pedis tomb was opened’.

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

Norway massacre: Breivik visited Malta for ‘historical research’

Breivik shot ‘several films’ in Malta

timesofmalta.com | Apr 30, 2012

by Christian Peregin

Norwegian terrorist mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik visited Malta with his mother in 2004 to conduct “historic research” for his manifesto but told the police he never made any permanent contacts on the island.

The visit came 10 days after Mr Breivik’s 25th birthday, The Times has learnt.

Mr Breivik – who is currently standing trial for killing 77 people at a summer camp organised by the ruling Labour party – gave details about his trip to the island to the Norwegian police when he was interrogated.

This is the first time details of his visit have emerged. In his manifesto, the anti-Muslim funda­mentalist listed 24 countries he had visited, including “exotic” destinations like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, China, Mexico, Cyprus and Malta.

When the police asked him about his trip to Malta, Mr Breivik initially said he did not remember his stay on the island.

Norwegian killer visited Malta

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Breivik: How I met Knights Templar ‘Richard the Lionheart’ in a London cafe

Breivik’s Knights Templar ‘mentor’ in Malta linked to exiled UDA loyalist Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair

Leader of Ancient Order of the Templar Knights in Malta denies mentoring Norwegian killer

However, when the police quoted flight records showing he landed on February 23, 2004, Mr Breivik confirmed this was a week-long holiday with his mother.

According to sources, Mr Breivik said he paid for the trip, through a Norwegian travel agency, as a gift to his mother and the two stayed at an “apartment-style” hotel close to Valletta.

It was his decision to fly to Malta and investigate how it had been at the forefront of “Europe’s defence from North Africa”.

Although his mother did not share his fascination with history, Mr Breivik saw this as a “historic journey” in which he researched various historical aspects to include in his manifesto.

Sources said he told the police he kept his research secret from his mother and made it a point to spend time alone while in Malta.

Mr Breivik also told the police that he did not make any “permanent contacts” in Malta, even though he shot “several films” from the island.

Mr Breivik has admitted killing all his victims but pleaded not guilty, claiming his Utoya massacre was an act of self-defence and those who died were “legitimate political targets”.

He had posted a 12-minute YouTube video, “Knights Templar 2083” six hours before the massacre, recycling the iconography of the crusades into a vision of the future that sees Christians having to fight Muslims once again. In his outlandish manifesto, Mr Breivik had given a list of anti-immigration or far-right parties that included the Nationalist Party, along with actual Maltese hard-right parties like Imperium Europa, Viva Malta and Azzjoni Nazzjonali.

The PN disassociated itself from this claim.

Mr Breivik was also linked to Malta-based far-right blogger Paul Ray who blogs about his fear of a Muslim invasion in Europe under the pseudonym Lionheart, and was linked by the British press to Mr Breivik.

Mr Ray’s pseudonym was mentioned twice in Mr Breivik’s manifesto but his blog or real name were never cited and Mr Ray has flatly denied any connection.

US Marine Fighter Squadron Switches To Knights Templar “Crusader” Logo Used by Norway Killer

“Crusader” Mentality Shared by U.S. Military, Norwegian Extremist

scoop.co.nz | Apr 20, 2012

 


The insignia for the VMFA-122 "Crusaders" that was used from 1957-2008. The name and symbols were changed to Werewolves for four years, but the historic nicname and symbols were recently reinstated.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO – Does the U.S. Military think it’s engaged in a holy war? The constitutionalist watchdogs at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are asking this question following the recent decision to rename Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) the “Crusaders” and adopt the red cross of the medieval Knights Templar.

As the dust in Afghanistan settles following weeks of violence resulting from the burning of the Qu’ran at Bagram Air Base, resulting in 30 dead and the death of six Americans, the decision to rechristen the jet fighter squadron as Crusaders threatens to reignite passions across the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the same red cross was heavily utilized in the video “manifesto” of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who claims to have carried out his gruesome attacks for the sake of advancing a “crusade” against multiculturalism and European Muslims. Breivik, who is currently standing trial for his gruesome attacks that claimed the lives of 77 people, claims allegiance to a network called the “Knights Templar” and has stated that he aspires to a “crusader” mentality. The Knights Templar was a Christian military order that participated in bloody campaigns across the Middle East, wearing white uniforms emblazoned with a red cross.

This same red cross has now been re-adopted as the logo for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122. Confidential MRFF sources have confirmed that VMFA-122 F/A-18 Hornet jets have been repainted to reflect last month’s name change. Base commanders have confirmed that the new artwork is identical to that shown in images from 2004 which have been uncovered online, which depict designs on the tails of the Hornets displaying a white teardrop-shaped medieval “kite shield” bearing the red Knights Templar cross against an Old Glory Blue backdrop.

Pork Eating Knights Templar Crusader Patch Huge Hit With Troops In Afghanistan

Civil rights group objects to Beaufort squadron’s name change

Group blasts Marine Corps for reviving Knights Templar Crusaders name and symbols

In 2008, VMFA-122, based out of Beaufort, South Carolina, was renamed the “Werewolves” after having borne the “Crusaders” label since 1958. With United States service personnel based across the Arab and Islamic world, the “Crusaders” name was dropped due to its clearly incendiary and offensive nature. At the time, Lt. Col. William Lieblein stated “The notion of being a crusader in that part of the world doesn’t float.”

“Crusader” is an epithet that is routinely used to describe U.S. service personnel throughout the Arab and Islamic world. A phrase with deeply resonant connotations in the region, “Crusader” recalls a history of colonization and a campaign of conquest and plunder spearheaded by European Christian military orders that claimed the lives of millions of inhabitants throughout the Middle East. In March 2012, Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri referred to International Security Assistance Force troops stationed in Afghanistan as “Crusader Swine”. During last year’s NATO intervention in Libya, then-leader Muammar Gaddafi referred to Western forces as a “crusader alliance.” Likewise, insurgent forces in Iraq have regularly called U.S. personnel “crusaders.”

However, on the occasion of the squadron’s 70th anniversary in March, present commander Lt. Col. Wade Wiegel stated that the “Crusader” label was “not politically incorrect”, according to a story broken by the Beaufort Gazette. According to Wiegel, “It’s a way for our Marines to draw on the service of the Marines before them, and to make their own history under the same name… the name change is a reflection of our heritage.”

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, president and founder of the four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominated MRFF, blasted the decision to rename the Werewolves, stating that “It will absolutely serve as a priceless propaganda bonanza of jovian magnitude for our nation’s fundamentalist Islamic foes and, thus, represents a veritable national security threat to the United States of America. Likewise, it will incontrovertibly, directly and indirectly hasten the maiming and deaths of our armed forces members.”

Just under one hundred U.S. Marines, the vast majority of whom are Christians who wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, contacted Weinstein after the renaming was brought to light. One “Crusader”, a member of VMFA-122, expressed his disgust and confided that he expected MRFF, an organization that represents over 27,000 clients within the U.S. armed forces (approximately 96% of whom are Christian), “to do something about this”.

Many Christian fundamentalist extremists endorse the idea of a new crusade, believing that it fulfills biblical prophecies. In August 2001, Protestant prophecy magazine The Philadelphia Trumpet published an article opening with the lines “Most people think the crusades for Jerusalem are a thing of the past—over forever. They are wrong. Preparations are being made for a final crusade, and it will be the bloodiest of all!” Immediately following the attacks on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush raised the hackles of European allies after referring to “This crusade, this war on terrorism”.

MRFF holds that much of U.S. Military doctrine has been tainted by supernatural theological concepts and a “Clash of Civilizations”, “us vs. them” ideology which warps order, discipline, and servicemember morale. The latest news of the “Crusader” renaming comes hot on the heels of recent controversies in Afghanistan involving brazen religious and cultural insensitivities by U.S. forces which have dramatically enflamed tensions in the region. These incidents have included the display of a Nazi Waffen-SS banner by U.S. Marine Corps Scout Snipers, a video of Marines urinating on dead irregular fighters, the widespread phenomenon of “Pork-Eating Infidel” patches worn by U.S. service personnel (which feature uniformed Templar knight crusaders), and the mass-burning of Qu’rans by U.S. forces at Bagram Air Base.

Expert: Painter Caravaggio murdered in cold blood by the Knights of Malta


‘Judith beheading Holofernes’ by Caravaggio Photo: Mimmo Frassineti / Rex Features

His mysterious death at the age of 38 has been blamed variously on malaria, an intestinal infection, lead poisoning from the oil paints he used or a violent brawl.

Telegraph | Apr 2, 2012

By Nick Squires, Rome

Now an intriguing new theory has been put forward for the demise of the rabble-rousing Renaissance artist Caravaggio – that he was killed in cold blood on the orders of the Knights of Malta to avenge an attack on one of their members.

The chivalric order, which was formed during the Crusades, hunted down the painter because he had seriously wounded a knight during a fight, according to Vincenzo Pacelli, an Italian historian and expert on Caravaggio.

The death of Caravaggio, who earned notoriety during his lifetime for his quick temper and hell-raising ways, has long been shrouded in mystery.

Some historians believe that he died of malaria in the Tuscan coastal town of Porto Ercole in 1610 and that he was buried there.

But Prof Pacelli, of the University of Naples, has unearthed documents from the Vatican Secret Archives and from archives in Rome which suggest that the artist was instead murdered by the Knights of Malta, who then threw his body in the sea at Palo, near Civitavecchia north of Rome.

Caravaggio killed by Knights of Malta – expert

If true, it was a violent end that Caravaggio himself foretold in one of his most famous works, David with the Head of Goliath (1610), in which he painted his own face onto the severed head of the slain giant.

The “state-sponsored assassination” was carried out with the secret approval of the Vatican, Prof Pacelli claims in a forthcoming book, Caravaggio – Between Art and Science.

“It was commissioned and organised by the Knights of Malta, with the tacit assent of the Roman Curia” – the governing body of the Holy See – because of the grave offence Caravaggio had caused by attacking a high-ranking knight, he said.

The decision to dump the body at sea explained why there are no funeral or burial records recording Caravaggio’s death.

“Had he died at Porto Ercole, he would have been given a funeral, especially given the fact that his brother was a priest,” Prof Pacelli said. “He would not just have been forgotten.” Caravaggio, whose artistic genius was matched only by a supreme talent for creating enemies, was subjected to a violent attack in Naples in 1609 by unidentified assailants which left him disfigured.

Prof Pacelli believes they were almost certainly assassins sent by the Knights of Malta, an order which was founded in the 11th century to protect Christians in the Holy Land and which subsequently established its headquarters on the Mediterranean island.

The academic found historical documents which suggest that the Vatican, which objected to Caravaggio’s questioning of Catholic doctrine, tried to cover up the truth of Caravaggio’s death.

He discovered mysterious discrepancies in correspondence between Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a powerful Vatican secretary of state, and Deodato Gentile, a papal ‘nuncio’ or ambassador, in which the painter’s place of death was cited as the island of Procida near Naples, “a place that Caravaggio had nothing to do with.”

A document written by Caravaggio’s doctor and first biographer, Giulio Mancini, claimed that the painter had died near Civitavecchia, but the place name was later scrubbed out and replaced by Porto Ercole.

Prof Pacelli has also found an account written 20 years after Caravaggio’s death, in which an Italian archivist, Francesco Bolvito, wrote that the artist had been “assassinated”.

Caravaggio – whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi – lived a turbulent life in which violent altercations forced him to flee from one city to another.

After finding fame in Rome for his distinctive “chiaro-scuro” painting technique – the contrast of shadow and light – he suddenly had to leave the city in 1606 after he was involved in a brawl in which he killed a man.

He eventually wound up in Malta, the headquarters of the Knights of Malta, where he was made a member of the order.

But by 1608 he was in prison, most probably after becoming involved in another fight, in which he wounded a knight.

He was expelled by the Knights on the grounds that he had become “a foul and rotten member” of the order and imprisoned in a castle dungeon.

He was released under mysterious circumstances and fled to first Sicily and then Naples.

He was heading to Rome in the hope of obtaining a papal pardon for the murder he had committed when he died.

Dr John T. Spike, a Caravaggio expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, agreed that there was no evidence to prove the theory that Caravaggio died in Tuscany.

But he was sceptical of the idea that the tortured genius was murdered by the Knights of Malta.

“They had ample opportunities to kill him sooner – either when he was in Malta, or during the time he spent in nearby Sicily afterwards.” Dr Spike believes the artist was killed – possibly accidentally – in a fight, and that his body was unceremoniously dumped.

In 2010, after a year-long investigation using DNA analysis and carbon dating, Italian researchers claimed to have found Caravaggio’s bones in a church ossuary in Porto Ercole.

They said they were 85 per cent sure that the remains belonged to the artists, but many historians have disputed those findings.

Italian painter Caravaggio may have been killed on orders of the Knights of Malta


Beheading of St John by Caravaggio graces the Oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedra. Photo: Daniel Cilia

Was Caravaggio killed by the Knights of Malta?

timesofmalta.com | Apr 3, 2012

Caravaggio, the Italian painter whose Beheading of St John graces the Oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedral, may have been killed on orders of the Knights of Malta, according to a researcher quoted by UK media.

The cause of his death in 1610 has always been a mystery, with possible causes having said to be lead poisoning from the oil paints he used, malaria or a brawl.

Professor Vincenzo Pacelli, from the University of Naples, has now claimed that according to secret Vatican documents, Caravaggio, 38, was killed on orders from the Knights of Malta after he seriously injured a knight in an earlier brawl.

The body was then thrown into the sea near Rome and was never given a funeral.

The claims are being disputed by John T. Spike, a Caravaggio expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia who said the knights had ample opportunities to kill him sooner – while he was in Malta, or during the time he spent in nearby Sicily afterwards.

Two years ago, Italian researches claimed to have located his remains in a church grave in Porto Ercole in Tuscany.

Pof Pacelli claims that the “state-sponsored assassination” was carried out with the secret approval of the Vatican.

“It was commissioned and organised by the Knights of Malta, with the tacit assent of the Roman Curia” – the governing body of the Holy See – because of the grave offence Caravaggio had caused by attacking a high-ranking knight, he said.

The academic found historical documents which suggest that the Vatican, which objected to Caravaggio’s questioning of Catholic doctrine, tried to cover up the truth of Caravaggio’s death.

He discovered mysterious discrepancies in correspondence between Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a powerful Vatican secretary of state, and Deodato Gentile, a papal ‘nuncio’ or ambassador, in which the painter’s place of death was cited as the island of Procida near Naples, “a place that Caravaggio had nothing to do with.”

A document written by Caravaggio’s doctor and first biographer, Giulio Mancini, claimed that the painter had died near Civitavecchia, but the place name was later scrubbed out and replaced by Porto Ercole.

Prof Pacelli has also found an account written 20 years after Caravaggio’s death, in which an Italian archivist, Francesco Bolvito, wrote that the artist had been “assassinated”.

Caravaggio was known to have many enemies and he suffered a violent attack in Naples in 1609 by unidentified assailants which left him disfigured.

Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio lived a turbulent life which saw him fleeing from one city to another.

After finding fame in Rome for his distinctive “chiaro-scuro” painting technique – the contrast of shadow and light – he suddenly had to leave the city in 1606 after he was involved in a brawl in which he killed a man.

He eventually ended up in Malta where he was made a member of the Knights of Malta.

But by 1608 he was in prison, most probably after becoming involved in another fight, in which he wounded a knight.

He was expelled by the Knights on the grounds that he had become “a foul and rotten member” of the order and imprisoned in a dungeon.

He was released under mysterious circumstances and fled to first Sicily and then Naples.

He was heading to Rome in the hope of obtaining a papal pardon for the murder he had committed when he died.