How the Death of the ‘Smiling Pope’ Helped Washington Win the Cold War

The year 1978, as I argued in a previous OpEd, was the year today’s world was made.

There was nothing inevitable about the ascendancy of Reagan and Thatcher, the rise of groups like al-Qaeda* and Daesh (IS)*, and the downfall of the Soviet Union. The neoliberal, neoconservative world order and its associated violence came about because of key events and decisions which took place forty years ago. The Vatican was at the heart of these events.

The drama which unfolded there in the summer of 1978 would have been rejected as being too far-fetched if sent in as a film script. In a space of two and a half months, we had three different Popes. There was no great surprise when, on 6th August, the first of them, Pope Paul VI died after suffering two heart attacks. The Supreme Pontiff, who had served since 1963, was 80 and had been in declining health. But the death of his much younger successor John Paul I, a radical reformer who wanted to build a genuine People’s Church, has fuelled conspiracy theories to this day.

Pope Francis Urges to Develop Dialogue With China After Bishop Nomination Deal

Cardinal Albino Luciani, the working-class son of a bricklayer (and staunch socialist), from a small town in northern Italy, was a Pope like no other.

He refused a coronation and detested being carried on the sedia gestatoria- the Papal chair. He hated pomp and circumstance and pretentiousness. 

His speeches were down to earth and full of homely…

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