In Yallop's book he writes that Cardinal Villot confirmed the Holy Father's death at 5:00 A.M. The Pope's slippers, glasses, and will disappeared, and "none of these items has ever been seen again," Yallop writes. There was speculation that if there had been vomit on the slippers - which there might have been, if indeed the Pope had been poisoned - it would give a conspirator a reason to remove the slippers permanently.
Cardinal Villot apparently phoned the embalmers around the time of death, and sent a Vatican car to fetch the embalmers. The car was also reported to have arrived at about 5:00 A.M., which would have been rather remarkable since the Pope's death was announced at that time. The reviewer of Yallop's book - a book which sold 5 million copies - writes that "It was not until 6:00 A.M. that Dr. Buzzonati (not Professor Fontana, the head of Vatican medical service) arrived and confirmed the death, without drawing up a death certificate. Dr. Buzzonati attributed the death to acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)."
And so, the time line continues to be suspicious, as Yallop has put together a scenario that by 6:30 A.M., Cardinal Villot "began to inform the cardinals, an hour and a half after the embalmers had arrived!" So it appears the bringing in the embalmers was a higher priority for Cardinal Villot than informing the other cardinals, and oddly, it was reported that "during the embalming it was insisted that no blood was to be drained from the body, and neither were any of the organs to be removed." very tiny amount of blood would of course "have been more than sufficient for a forensic scientist to establish the presence of any poisonous substances."
What was the Vatican's reason for the Pope's death? Cardinal Villot was quoted by the French magazine, Ouest-France, as saying, "What occurred was a tragic accident. The Pope had unwittingly taken an overdose of his medicine. If an autopsy was performed it would obviously show this fatal overdose," Villot explained. And since no one "would believe that his Holiness had taken it accidentally," it was agreed "there would be no autopsy." Some would argue that it was suicide, and others would say it was murder, Villot asserted.
The Pope's medicine was for low blood pressure (Effortil); the alibi by Villot "intentionally left room for speculation of suicide," to take attention away from the real cause of the Pope's death, "poisoning by Cardinal Villot himself," the article reviewing Yallop's book states. The Pope's niece, quoted in the San Juan Star on October 3, 1978, said: "In my family almost no one believes it was a heart attack that killed my uncle. He never had heart trouble or any illness of that kind."
And so, what did Coppola and Puzo think of the suggestions that the Pope was murdered, rather than died of a heart attack? The Godfather III depicts the Church as such a corrupt institution, and so willing to give in to Corleone's power and money, that it certainly came as no surprise that the Pope so suddenly died in the storyline.
With the background of all these questions flying around the death of the Pope, in the real world, and the bank scandal involving the Vatican bank and Vatican money very real and very much in the headlines of newspapers, it gave Coppola license to fictionalize a terrific series of conspiracy theories involving the Mafia and the Church, both very hot-button institutions that as a combo, was sure to draw people to the film all those years after Godfather II had come and gone.
Viewers know that Corleone himself didn't fully trust the Church to distribute the first hundred million dollars to the poor and needy in Sicily. After the archbishop thanked Corleone for the hundred million ("Michael, you're done a wonderful think for the people of Sicily"), Corleone said, "Let's just hope the money gets to the people who need it."
And then, in the later meeting with the archbishop, in which the archbishop explains to Corleone and Corleone's PR man, that he, the archbishop, "was never a true banker," as a way of leading up to the fact that there are some $700 million missing from the Vatican bank accounts, viewers can surmise that Coppola was tapping into real life story of the scandal which left Calvi hanging from a noose from a bridge in London.
The reason that the archbishop needed Corleone's money was not because any Vatican money had been embezzled, of course, but because, as the archbishop said in the film, "I trusted my friends." Corleone replied, "Friendship and money: oil and water." And the archbishop went on, "if only I could pay off our $700 million deficit..." And viewers know he is guilty of some kind of transgression because he keeps nervously lighting cigarette after cigarette.
And so Corleone agrees to get the archbishop off the hook by kicking in $600 million, but for that money, Corleone wants controlling interest in Immobiliare, "the largest landlord on earth," a $6 billion corporation with 9 board members. The Church had the deciding vote on that 9-member board, which of course they used to give Corleone the power to control that money.
It is poignant and ironic that the archbishop, in that meeting, said: "In today's world, the power to absolve debt is greater than the power of forgiveness - 600 million." To which Corleone replied, "Don't overestimate the power of forgiveness."
That is a fitting statement by Corleone because a bit later in the film he agrees to offer a confession to Cardinal Lamberto, and first resists the confession, saying, candidly and truthfully, "I wouldn't know where to begin," and, "I'm beyond redemption." And then Corleone utters one of the most powerful statements in this movie, and also one of the most powerful criticisms of the Church, which is offered frequently by Church detractors and critics. "What is the point of confessing," Corleone asked, "if I don't repent?"
Then Cardinal Lamberto follows up with, "I hear you are a practical man - what have you got to lose?" Corleone appears to be sincere, albeit guilt-ridden, as he confesses that he ordered the killing of his own brother. "I ordered the death of my brother," he said. "I killed my mother's son. I killed my mother's son." The cardinal replied, "Your sins are terrible and it is just that you suffer. Your life will be redeemed," he added, concluding with the apt remark, "I know you don't believe that."
In Roger Ebert's column, alluded to earlier, he writes that some of the dialogue is "vaguely awkward," some answers "do not fit the questions, and conversations seem to have been rewritten in the editing room." Other scenes "are confusing" and characters' lips "look suspiciously like scenes that were filmed last and dubbed later." Still, though the film received a great deal of criticism, it has a powerful impact, even today, 15 years after it was released, because there is a whole new scandal (the molestation scandals) and entirely new reasons to question the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
BBC News. "Four Charged over Calvi Killing." April 18, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2005, from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/4457975.stm.
Ebert, Roger. "The Godfather, Part III." Chicago Suntimes. December 25, 1990. Retrieved May 16, 2005 at http://rogerevert.suntimes.com.
Goeringer, Conrad. "Through the Looking Glass: Vatican Politics, the Calvi Murder and Beyond..." American Atheist: A Journal of Atheist News and Thought. Retrieved May 17, 2005 at http://www.americanatheist.org.
Yallop, David. In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul…