The recent election of Pope Francis I (Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Argentine of Italian origin), who comes from the Jesuit order, to become the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the State of Vatican, as well as the circumstances that triggered the unusual decision of his predecessor Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) to quit his position brought to the attention the complex evolution of Vatican, marked by the continuous endeavor of the Papacy to exert and expand its influence and control in the process of the world’s evolution.

Pope Francis’ first month in office showed the first signs that the new Pope might rightly deserve the title of Pontiff (literally “bridge-builder”) and that the Vatican (again!) was capable to make a papal choice to match the trends of the 21st century world. Pope Francis’ first significant decision after his election was to choose eight cardinals from around the world to advise him in governing the church and overhauling the Vatican hierarchy which has been rocked by scandals. Several of the group’s members have a record of vigorous reform and outspoken criticism of the status quo. None has served in the Italian-dominated Roman Curia (the Vatican hierarchy) and only one is an Italian.

The coordinator of the eight is Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the head of “Caritas International”, the Catholic Church’s main charity. The others are Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, and president of the Conference of Latin American Bishops; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston; and Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, Australia. Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, will be the group’s secretary. Officially, the group will meet in October, but the Vatican said the pope was already in contact with the eight advisers.

The Pope’s decision was taken after his predecessor Benedict XVI gave him a dossier on the troubles in the Vatican produced by an investigative committee of cardinals, and after a suggestion raised during the general congregations of cardinals before the conclave in which he was elected pope.

Most of the Vatican observers considered the decision as revolutionary and the most important step in the history of the church for the past millennium, since the group is intended not only to promote greater dialogue between the Vatican hierarchy and churches worldwide, but, more significantly, to revise the laws governing the Roman Curia. According to the official statement, the group was entrusted with drawing up a scheme “for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus”, which dates from 1988 and was drafted by Pope John Paul II. The last thoroughgoing shake-up of the Curia, however, was by Pope Paul VI more than 40 years ago. The group’s leader, Cardinal Maradiaga, said that it also would “certainly” be tackling the ever-controversial Vatican bank.

The Vatican scandals: revealing the Papacy’s global power and influence

Although not invoked officially, the reasons for Pope Benedict’s decision to quit included the disclosures about the fraud and corruption at the Vatican, as well as the consequences of previous European Union enquiries concerning supposedly illegal dealings of the Vatican financial organizations.

The so-called “VatiLeaks” scandal came to light in January 2012 in a television program, to be followed by the publication by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi of several letters from Carlo Maria Viganó, formerly the second ranked Vatican administrator to the Pope, who exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions in higher contract prices and who was sent as Apostolic nuncio to the USA.

In the leaked letters, Viganó told the pope he could hardly believe what he discovered when he began combing through the Vatican’s accounts. He went to work slashing grossly inflated budgets and claiming to have converted a deficit of some $10 million into a surplus of $43.5 million. But in the process, he made powerful enemies, and on March 22, 2011 he was fired.

Other documents also uncovered power struggles inside the Vatican over its efforts to show greater financial transparency, including the ouster of the head of the Vatican bank, who possessed documents that apparently showed the Church circumventing European money-laundering regulations. The documents portray the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light. Bertone’s name recurs in letter after secret letter, as he plots to oust rivals such as the editor of the bishops’ daily newspaper, as well as Carlo Maria Viganó.

Although the details about the source of the leaked documents are not yet clear, one of their principal goals was clearly to expose the corruption and fraud that began to affect Vatican’s finances. Between 2009 and 2010, St. Peter’s alone saw its income from offerings plummet from $82.5 million to $67 million, a drop of 20 percent. In 2011, the Vatican posted its first deficit in years, a loss of $19 million.

The scandal involving the “Institute for the Works of Religion” (Istituto per le Opere di ReligioneIOR), commonly known as the “Vatican Bank”, while extremely damaging, also revealed the global activities and interests of the Roman Catholic Church which is one of the world’s major financial actors.

The IOR was founded on 27 June 1942 by Pope Pius XII. It absorbed the “Administration of the Works of Religion”, which had originated in the “Commission for Works of Charity” established by Pope Leo XIII on 11 February 1887. As a specific feature, the purpose of the IOR is “to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons and intended for works of religion or charity”. As such, it is not among the departments of this central administrative structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Nor is the IOR considered a central bank responsible for a country’s monetary policy and for maintaining the stability of a currency and money supply[1].

During the cold war, the bank was widely seen as a channel to transfer money to the Eastern Bloc to help end Communism, and today the Vatican uses the bank to help it operate in sensitive areas like Cuba and China.

Although being a successful and profitable bank (by the 1990s it had invested over US$10 billion in foreign companies and in 2011 it had 20,772 clients, 68 percent of them members of the clergy, $8.2 billion in assets and around 33,000 accounts under its management), the IOR was involved in several financial scandals.

One of them, the 980ies collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, where IOR was the main share-holder was considered the biggest post-war financial disaster. The bank collapsed following several money laundering operations developed by Michele Sindona, hired by IOR in 1968, despite his connections with the Italian Mafia, and who started to launder the money of the Gambino clan (taking a 50% cut) with the help of another banker, Roberto Calvi, who managed the Banco Ambrosiano, known as “God’s Banker” because of his links to the Vatican. Both Calvi and Sindona were members of the Masonic P2 Lodge. IOR denied having legal responsibility for the Banco Ambrosiano’s downfall but did acknowledge “moral involvement” and paid US$241 million to creditors.

In 2009, IOR was again investigated by Italian authorities over money laundering transactions worth €180 million (US$ 218 million) using the “offshore” status of the Holy See. The investigation was part of a push by the European Union to apply common rules to all the countries and micro-states like Vatican City and Monaco that use the euro.

On 21 September 2010, Italian police declared that IOR’s President, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and another IOR manager were under investigation for money laundering charges. Consequently, on May 24, 2012, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted as Head of the IOR because of “failure to fulfill the primary functions of his office”. According to the authorities, some IOR accounts were used for money-laundering and other illegal activities, including recycling of Mafia money through the channels of the Vatican Bank and handling bribe money to political parties in Italy. Italian prosecutors are also investigating a claim that one account was indirectly linked to a Sicilian mafia godfather Matteo Messina Denaro.

Currently, the Vatican is trying to appease the financial scandal and one of the last decisions of former Pope Benedict was to name a new President of IOR, in the person of Ernst von Freyberg, a German lawyer, member of the Knights of Malta. As to Pope Francis, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who was tipped as a possible secretary of state to succeed Tarcisio Bertone said the new Pope would even weigh up appeals made by two cardinals for the IOR to be scrapped.

The recent developments are only the first indications that the Papacy still has the capacity to adapt and remain, during its age-long history, one of the most influential political actors of all time.


I. The Middle Age: spiritual and secular superpower


Historians note that, since the Middle Age, acquiring temporal power, wealth and political influence was one of the Papal entity’s main goals, at times equal if not more important than spreading and enforcing the religious doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Crusades: source of Papal power and wealth

The first historical period to witness the Papacy’s rise as a main political actor in Europe and beyond is the Middle Age, beginning with the 11th century. The development of the crusades and the role of the papacy within that development began around the year 1000 AD, with various small conflicts between Christians and Islamic forces, including one in 1009, when the Fatimid Caliph Hakim destroyed the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Other ideas that led to the call for Crusade at Clermont were Pope Leo IX’s concept of the moral value of military action for Christendom[2], the Norman notions of expansionism, the development of the Spanish Holy War ideology (Reconquista), the Crusade designs of Gregory VII[3], and the combining of Christian militarism and pilgrimage by Urban II.

Historians point out that Gregory VII helped establishing the power of the papacy in the Western world and provided a platform from which Urban II could reaffirm the papal dreams of going abroad to save the holy land and reconcile with the East. They stress that, though the pretences were pious and plausible, the Papacy’s real aim was to bring the three patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Constantinople to its  subjection and to make the Eastern Church a chapel belonging to the mother church of Rome.

Urban II also had his own reasons for picking up the idea of the crusade and shaping it into what would become his Speech at Clermont. Urban II (ca. 1042 – 29 July 1099, born Otho de Lagery) was a Frenchman and a Cluny monk, who belonged to the order that for a century had the deepest sympathy for the movement of Christian Knighthood. Urban picked up where Gregory VII and Leo IX had left off in their use of religious language to present the wars against the heathen and to polarize themselves against their enemies.

On 26 November 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Urban II delivered his sermon calling for crusade. Following the appeal for help from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I against the Turks’ threat, Urban II proclaimed the Crusade against the infidel Muslims. He called for Christian princes across Europe to launch a holy war in the Holy Land. He contrasted the sanctity of Jerusalem and the holy places with the plunder and desecration by the infidel Turks. He caused outrage by vividly describing attacks upon the Christian pilgrims. He also noted the military threat to the fellow Christians of Byzantium. He charged Christians to take up the holy cause, promising to all those who went absolution of sins and to all who died in the expedition immediate entry into heaven. Then Urban raised secular motives, talking of the feudal love of tournaments and warfare. He also mentioned the crusade as a solution for the overpopulation (“…this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators”).

He also suggested material rewards, regarding feudal fiefdoms, land ownership, wealth, power, and prestige, all at the expense of the Arabs and Turks. Word spread rapidly that war against unbelief would be fused with the practice of pilgrimage to holy sites, and the pilgrims’ reward would be great on earth, as in heaven. Immediately thousands pledged themselves to go on the first crusade.

Most historians agree that Urban’s idea of giving of pilgrim status to crusaders made it possible for the pope to control them, since pilgrims were treated in law as temporary ecclesiastics, subject to church courts. Armed pilgrimage was the combination that secured Urban II’s position at the head of the Christendom, solidifying himself as the true Pope during a time of schism, but also showing the ability to look into the future and organize the church and the people of the West under the ideas of St. Peter[4].

Pope Urban’s speech ranks as one of the most influential speeches ever made: it launched the holy wars which occupied the minds and forces of Western Europe for two hundred years. The Crusades, directly and indirectly, cost Christendom several millions of lives (from 2,000,000 to 6,000,000 according to different estimates), besides incalculable expenditures in money and suffering.

The main result of the Crusades was to increase the wealth of the Church and the power of the Papacy. Though the Crusades did not result finally in the conquest of the Holy Land, the prominent part which the Popes took in the enterprises fostered their authority and influence, by placing in their hands the armies and resources of Christendom, and accustoming the people to look to them as guides and leaders.

The Orders of the Temple and Hospital received great endowments and became very wealthy. The wealth of the churches and monasteries augmented enormously by the sale to them, often for a mere fraction of their actual value, of the estates of those preparing for the expeditions or returning from them, or by the gift of the lands in return for prayers and benedictions. The popes drew a profit from this state of affairs, for, whereas during the 12th century the bishops were accustomed to contribute out of their funds toward the cost of the military expeditions, after the Lateran Council of 1215, these bounties were claimed by Rome as the supreme leader of the holy war and became the basis of a regular tax that was enforced throughout Europe long after the fall of the last Christian citadel in the East.

In all these ways, the power of the Papacy and the wealth of the Church were vastly augmented. The period from 1073 to 1517 is considered to be a time when the Roman Catholic Church rose to its greatest heights as an ecclesiastical organization, and in which the Papacy freed itself from the secular rule and became the dominating force in European political and religious life. For a time there seemed a possibility that there might be one all-inclusive Catholic Church, under the authority of the Pope. The capture of Constantinople led to the establishment of a Latin patriarchate. Bishops of heretical churches in Syria acknowledged the supremacy of the Latin Church. The ruler of Armenia wished to have the title of king bestowed upon him by the Pope and promised to bring the Armenian Church under the Pope.

Church unity was attained for only a short time. The Greek Empire, for whose aid the First Crusade had been preached, was weakened by the attacks of the crusaders and could not much longer be “the bulwark of Europe” against Islam. The fall of the Latin Empire of Constantinople led to the return of the Greek patriarch.

Since the Popes offered privileges and also because of the weakness of most of the monarchs in Western Europe, during the first half of the twelfth century the papacy managed to become also a powerful temporal authority and the popes added to their spiritual powers secular ones, similar to the kings. For example, all crusaders were given the protection of the ecclesiastical courts; thus when a vassal took the cross, he could escape from the jurisdiction of his feudal lord, and his family and property were taken under the protection of the Church. In this way, many cases were taken from the feudal courts. The Popes also gave permission for non-payment of interest on debts owed by crusaders and directed that the monarchs should take steps to enforce this.

A significant example of Pope’s power was the conflict in the early 1200s between King John of England (1166-1216) and Pope Innocent III concerning the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury. King John of England refused to acknowledge Innocent’s choice and the Pope laid on England an interdict (1208-14), prohibiting the religious service for anyone, guilty or innocent, and eventually, the king, himself was excommunicated.

Under the pressure, in 1213 John wrote a letter of concession to the Pope. As part of the deal, John offered to surrender the Kingdom of England to the papacy for a feudal service of 1,000 marks (equivalent to £666 at the time) annually: 700 marks (£466) for England and 300 marks (£200) for Ireland, as well as recompensing the church for revenue lost during the crisis. If these terms were not met, according to the charter, the crown of England would be surrendered to the Roman Catholic Church. The agreement was formalized in the Bulla Aurea (Golden Bull).

John paid some of the compensation money he had promised the church, but he ceased making payments in late 1214, leaving two-thirds of the sum unpaid. If initially, Pope Innocent appeared to have conveniently forgotten this debt, John’s signing of the Magna Carta (under the English barons’ pressure) prompted him to remember the English king’s obligations. Pope Innocent took official ownership of the crown by an act of declaration, on August 24, 1215, in which he condemned the Magna Carta. The English monarchy would be submitted to the Pope until the creation of the Church of England, several centuries later.

The power of the popes is also illustrated by the fact that they preached several crusades against their temporal foes and offered to the participants in these wars the same privileges, spiritual and temporal, which were given to those who went on expeditions against the Moslems.

The Inquisition

Another important outcome of the Crusades is the growth of the spirit of religious intolerance, since the war against the non-believer, whether Muslim, Jew, or pagan, also begun against the so-called heretics.

The first pope to wage a crusade against Christians was Innocent III, who preached a crusade against the Cathars, a Christian group with dualistic and Gnostic elements that first appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cathars had different Christian beliefs and ideologies, but historians agree that their main “heresy” was their opposition to the Church of Rome, protesting against what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Church.

The first Inquisition was established in Southern France in the context of the anti-Cathar crusade, when Pope Innocent III delegated three Cistercian monks, who had the title  of “Inquisitors of the Faith”, to go to Tolouse and take action against the heretics in Aix, Arles, Narbonne, and the neighboring dioceses.

The Inquisition was officially instituted in 1229 by Gregory IX (1227-1241), centered under the Dominican Order in Rome (later at Carcasonne in Provence) and designed to inquire (Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis – Inquiry on Heretical Perversity) into the spread of heresy, and to call before its tribunals Catholics suspected of heresy with a view of securing their repentance. A Grand Inquisitor headed each Inquisition. Grand Inquisitions persisted until the mid 19th century.

In practice, the Inquisition would not itself pronounce a sentence, but would hand convicted heretics to secular authorities for the punishment deemed fitting by the Church. The punishments included death by burning, although imprisonment for life or banishment would also be used. The inquisitors generally knew what would be the fate of anyone so remanded. Legal basis for the inquisitorial activity came from Pope Innocent IV’s papal bull Ad Extirpanda of 1252, which explicitly authorized (and defined the appropriate circumstances for) the use of torture by the Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. By 1256 inquisitors were given absolution if they used instruments of torture.

With the Protestant Reformation, Catholic authorities became much more ready to suspect heresy in any new ideas, and the extirpation of heretics became a more complex enterprise. The Roman Catholic Church could no longer exercise direct influence in the politics and justice-systems of lands which officially adopted Protestantism. Thus war (the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War), massacre (the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre) and the missionary and propaganda work (by the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) of the Counter-Reformation came to play larger roles in these circumstances.

The Inquisition persisted, with the Apostolic Constitution (Licet ab initio), proclaimed by Pope Paul III on July 21, 1542 establishing the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, staffed by cardinals and other officials whose task was “to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines”. It served as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy and served as an important part of the Counter-Reformation. This body was renamed the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1904 by Pope Saint Pius X and its name was changed to Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on December 7, 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council. Soon after the entry into force of the present Code of Canon Law at the end of 1983, when the adjective “Sacred” was dropped from the names of all Curial Congregations, it adopted its current name, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Catholicism and Inquisition: from Spain to Latin America

In Spain, an apostolic Inquisition, with Dominican and Franciscan inquisitors, existed prior to the reign of the Catholic kings Ferdinand and Isabella. These inquisitors did not operate in the kingdoms of Castile and León until the request of Ferdinand and Isabella, who sought a homogeneous population, possessing one religion and culture. The Inquisition became a powerful tool that was used by the Catholic kings to enforce the religion in the “re-conquered” multicultural territories of Muslim and Jewish influence. It mainly targeted converts from Islam and from Judaism who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion or of having fallen back into it.

Under the prompting of Isabella’s confessor, Tomás de Torquemada, the Catholic kings requested Pope Sixtus IV to establish the Holy Office in their kingdoms. The pope complied with the request in 1478, with the Bull Exigit Sincere Devotionis, but withdrew his permission when he heard of the abuses that were occurring in Spain. He reinstated it in 1480, on receipt of a sizable contribution. In 1484, Torquemada became the first “Inquisidor General” in Spain. In contrast to the previous inquisitions, it operated completely under royal Christian authority, though staffed by clergy and orders, and independently of the Holy See.

The Spanish Inquisition also operated in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America.

In the Americas, the Catholic Kings’ successor, King Philip II set up two tribunals (each formally titled Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición) in 1569, one in Mexico and the other in Peru. The Mexican office also covered the territories of modern-day Guatemala, Chiapas, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, as well as the Spanish East Indies. The Peruvian Inquisition, based in Lima, administered all the Spanish territories in South America and Panama.

As most historians agree, the extension of Catholicism to Latin America, through conquest and occupation by the Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms, was, in a sense, a continuation of the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, which terminated with the surrender of Granada to the Catholic Kings in 1492. It was in Granada that Ferdinand and Isabella met Columbus and authorized his voyage. This is evident in the documents that accompanied Columbus on his first voyage (preserved in the monastery of La Rábida in Spain), that show from the very beginning the double goal of the mission (with the religious one in the first place):

Mandamos estas tres carabellas armadas por mares oceános por causa de algunos negocios concernientes a la difusión de la palabra divina y aumento de la fé ortodoxa y también en provecho y utilidad nuestros. Yo el rey, Yo la reina.

(We send these three armed caravels on the ocean seas in pursuit of certain interests relating to the spread of the divine word and increase of the orthodox faith and also for our benefit and profit. I the King, I the Queen).

This deep link between religion and political power meant that for most of its history, Catholicism in Latin America has been a religion of domination, of entrenched power, privilege, and property, which monopolized religious expression, suppressed other forms of worship (or incorporated them), wielded extensive influence over governments and education, and occupied or at least competed with other elite groups to occupy many social roles.

In addition to promoting devotions, the conquering Spaniards and Portuguese also freely resorted to the Inquisition, to forced conversions and destruction of traditional worship sites and sacred books, the most famous cases being the burning of Mayan codices and the melting of Incan images into gold ingots. But within a century of the conquest, a more regular pattern was consolidated that depended above all on administrative control and ordinary coercion rather than extraordinary acts of conquest. A related element deeply entrenched in the traditional Catholicism of the region was racism, with clerical status everywhere restricted to whites of legitimate birth, a pattern that persisted well into the twentieth century.

Besides instating a white clerical elite allied with state power and administering religion in sporadic doses to a subordinate non-white (Indian, mixed, African-American), the Catholics developed institutions affiliated with the Church, above all schools at all levels and health services. The Catholic Church early staked a claim to a key role in education, both as provider and overseer, and continued to claim that role up to the present day. This entailed the pressing of demands on the state for financial and material support of all kinds, and for arrangements that permitted the unhindered importation of clergy and religious personnel. The Church was very reliant on state support for the livelihood of its personnel and the maintenance of its buildings.

The close ties between the Church and power continued with independence, as most new governments claimed for themselves the rights of patronage and made official provisions for the support of clergy and the maintenance of churches.

This relationship and the Catholic Church’s position which, according to most analysts is challenged but not yet threatened by other Christian faiths (mainly neo-protestant) is more significant taking into account the so-called “shift southwards” of the Christian world. Currently the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in Africa and Latin America. According to most statistics, out of the world’s ca. 2.2 billion Christians, Europe still has the largest single bloc, some 560 million people, but Latin America is close behind with 480 million. Extrapolating these figures to 2025, there would be some 2.6 billion Christians, 633 million in Africa, 640 million in Latin America, and 460 million in Asia. Europe, with 555 million, would have slipped to third place. Africa and Latin America would tie for the most Christian continent. By 2050, only about one-fifth of the world’s three billion Christians will be non-Latino whites.


II. From the Catholic military orders to Freemasonry


The Papacy’ most powerful instruments in acquiring and extending its power and influence, since even before the crusades, were the Catholic religious and military orders – that brought together monks and lay people – , whose main mission was to spread the religion and bring people (and material wealth) under the power of the Pope. Similar to the Vatican, these groups developed through history and adapted to the world’s evolution, to become discreet but significant power actors.

The Templars: Middle Age European structures for the Papacy

One of the most wealthy and powerful military orders that existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Age was Pauperes Commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici (the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon), commonly known as the Knights Templar or Templars. It was created around 1119, when the French knight Hugues de Payens proposed to King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to accept creating a monastic order for the protection of the Jerusalem pilgrims. King Baldwin agreed and gave the knights a wing of the royal palace on the Temple Mount, the place of the supposed ruins of the Temple of Solomon, from which the order took its name. At the beginning, the Order, with about nine knights, had few financial resources and relied on donations to survive. Their emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, emphasizing the Order’s poverty.

Officially endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129, at the Council of Troyes, the Order became a favored charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power, becoming some the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. In 1139, Pope Innocent II’s papal Bull Omne Datum Optimum exempted the Order from obedience to local laws, meaning that the Templars could pass freely through all borders, were not required to pay any taxes, and were exempt from all authority except that of the pope.

Although the primary mission of the Order was military, relatively few members were combatants. The others acted in support positions to assist the knights and to manage the financial infrastructure. Though its members were sworn to poverty, the Templar Order was given control of wealth beyond direct donations. A nobleman who was interested in participating in the Crusades might place all his assets under Templar management while he was away. Accumulating wealth in this manner, in 1150 the Order began generating letters of credit for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land: pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local Templar preceptory before embarking, received a document indicating the value of their deposit, then used that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds. This innovative arrangement was an early form of banking, and may have been the first formal system to support the use of cheques; it improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, and also contributed to the Templar coffers.  The Templars established financial networks across the Christendom. They acquired large tracts of land, both in Europe and the Middle East; they bought and managed farms and vineyards; they built churches and castles; they were involved in manufacturing, import and export; they had their own fleet of ships; and at one point they even owned the entire island of Cyprus. According to some historians, the Order may be considered the world’s first multinational corporation.

The support of the Templars diminished after the Crusades and envy of their wealth grew, as well as the mistrust generated by rumors about their secret ceremonies. The situation was complex, since the Templars had become a part of daily life throughout Christendom, with a widespread presence at the local level and many Europeans having contact with the Templar network, such as by working at a Templar farm or vineyard, or using the Order as a bank in which to store personal valuables. The Order was still not subject to local government, making it everywhere a “state within a state”. Its standing army, though it no longer had a well-defined mission, could pass freely through all borders. This situation heightened tensions with European nobility, especially as the Templars were indicating an interest in founding their own monastic state.

King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation and pressured the Pope to take action against the Templars, as a way of freeing himself from his debts.  In 1307, many of the Order’s members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. The Templars were charged with numerous offences (including apostasy, idolatry, heresy, obscene rituals and homosexuality, financial corruption and fraud, and secrecy). Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on 22 November 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. In 1312, he issued a series of papal bulls, including Vox in excelso, which officially dissolved the Order, and Ad Providam, which turned over most Templar assets to the Hospitallers.

The Order of Malta: with the Vatican from the Crusades till the 21st century

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is the world’s oldest surviving order of chivalry, widely considered a sovereign subject of international law.

The birth of the Order dates back to around 1048, when merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorization to build a church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the monastic community that ran the hospital for the pilgrims in the Holy Land) became independent and with the Bull of 15 February 1113, Pope Paschal II approved the foundation of the Hospital and placed it under the aegis of the Holy See. The Bull, Pie Postulatio Voluntatis, granted the Order the right to elect its superiors without interference from other secular or religious authorities. By virtue of the Papal Bull, the Hospital became an Order exempt from the local Church. All the Knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Pope.

Following the conquest of the Holy land by the Islam forces, the order moved and found its own state structure in Rhodes (1310–1523) and later in Malta (1530–1798), where it administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily. The Order was weakened by Napoleon’s capture of Malta in 1798 and became dispersed throughout Europe. The order settled in Rome, where it remains to this day. It regained strength during the early 19th century as it repurposed itself towards humanitarian and religious causes. The modern continuation of the mediaeval Order is the Roman Catholic Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), headquartered in Rome. The Order has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. It issues its own international passports for travel and postal stamps and maintains diplomatic relations with 104 countries.

Protestant orders of Malta are to be found in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. In Great Britain, a Protestant descendant of the Order is the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, having as Sovereign Head Queen Elizabeth II.

Nowadays, the Order has about 13,000 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics in more than 120 countries. They act for humanitarian purposes all over the world.

Because of its secretive proceedings, unique political status, and association with the Crusades, the order has long been a target for conspiracy theorists. Alleged members in the U.S. have included former CIA Directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and Republican politician Pat Buchanan, though none have ever acknowledged membership. Other prominent members were/are the New York financier J. Peter Grace, the Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams and the former Cabinet secretaries Alexander M. Haig Jr. and William E. Simon.

Various theories have tied the Knights to conspiracies and crimes including the Kennedy assassination and spreading the AIDS virus through its clinics in Africa.

In America, the Knights, who supposedly controlled the OSS and later the CIA, were said to be behind “Operation Paperclip”, overseen by J. Peter Grace, through which, after World War II, top Nazis and scientists were illegally secreted into the United States.

In 1988, Mauro Casagrandi, the son of a prominent knight and the chargé d’affaires at the Order’s embassy in Havana confessed that he was a double agent who worked for the Cuban secret services for 12 years while pretending to work for the Central Intelligence Agency, then headed by William J. Casey, himself a knight. In another case, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Defense boasted of his membership in the Knights in his official biography.

In 2006, a newspaper article in the United Arab Emirates claimed that the Knights were directly influencing U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, reprising their role in the Crusades. Following the article, Islamist websites in Egypt urged followers to attack the order’s embassy in Cairo, forcing the organization to issue a statement denying any military role.

The Order received another unwanted publicity in 2011, when the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was accused of being infiltrated by “Christian fanatics” who aim to “change mosques into cathedrals”. Some leading commanders were also accused of “members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta”.

The incidents also revealed the fact that the American segment of the organization has become increasingly important although the order does not have official relations with the United States (it has offices in New York, for the United Nations delegation, and Washington, for its representation at the Inter-American Development Bank). The trend began in the mid 1950ies, when the Order was opened to commoners, who since reached nearly 60 percent of the knights. The United States is second only to Italy as to the number of members, thus adding to the popular conviction that the Knights of Malta and Vatican are in fact controlling American politics and economics.

In February 2013, the Order of the Knights of Malta celebrated the 900th anniversary of the Papal bull of sovereignty with a general audience given by Pope Benedict XVI and a Holy Mass celebrated by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The Teutonic Knights: military and missionary

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum), mainly known as the Teutonic Order evolved from the Domus Theutonicorum (house of the Germans), formed in 1143, when Pope Celestine II ordered the Knights Hospitaller to take over management of a German hospital in Jerusalem, where the German pilgrims and crusaders could neither speak the local language nor Latin. Although formally an institution of the Hospitallers, the pope commanded that the prior and the brothers should always be Germans, and so a tradition of a German-led religious institution could develop during the 12th century in Palestine. After the loss of Jerusalem in 1187, merchants from Lübeck and Bremen took up the “house of the Germans” in 1190 and founded a field hospital which became the nucleus of the order. Pope Celestine III recognized it in 1192 by granting the monks Augustinian Rule. Based on the model of the Knights Templar, it was, transformed into a military order in 1198 and the head of the order became known as the Grand Master.

During the rule of Grand Master Hermann von Salza (1209–1239), the Order changed from being a hospice brotherhood for pilgrims to primarily a military order. Emperor Frederick II elevated Hermann von Salza (who was his close friend) to the status of Reichsfürst, (“Prince of the Empire”), enabling the Grand Master to negotiate with other senior princes as an equal. During Frederick’s coronation as King of Jerusalem in 1225, Teutonic Knights served as his escort in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Teutonic Knights were also connected to Transylvania, since in 1211, Andrew II of Hungary accepted their services to defend the South-Eastern borders of the kingdom and granted them the district of Burzenland (Romanian: Tara Barsei). Led by a brother called Theoderich, the Order defended the South-Eastern borders of the Hungarian kingdom against the neighboring Cumans and settled new German colonists among the Transylvanian Saxons that were already living there[5]

The Hungarian king granted the Teutonic Order the right to establish markets and administer justice. The crusaders were also free from taxes and tolls. The Teutonic Knights began building wood-and-earth forts in the area, as well as five castles (“quinque castra fortia”): Marienburg (Feldioara), Schwarzenburg (Codlea), Rosenau (Rasnov), Kreuzburg (Prejmer), and Kronstadt (Brasov), some of which were made of stone. Germans already in Transylvania and volunteer settlers from the Holy Roman Empire developed farms and villages nearby to support the forts and settle the land.

In 1224, the Teutonic Knights petitioned Pope Honorius III to be placed directly under the authority of the Papal See, rather than that of the King of Hungary. Led by the Hungarian heir to the throne, the nobility pressed the need to expel the knights upon King Andrew II after his return from the Fifth Crusade. Grand Master Hermann von Salza attempted to loosen the Order’s ties to the Hungarian crown by drawing closer to the Papacy. Andrew subsequently evicted the Order with his army in 1225, although Pope Honorius III protested to no effect[6].

The confusing status of the Teutonic Knights within the Kingdom of Hungary led Hermann von Salza to insist upon autonomy before committing the military order to Prussia. Consequently, he obtained from the Emperor the so-called Golden Bull of Rimini, in March 1226, which confirmed the Teutonic Knights’ possessions in Prussia. Following the Golden Bull of Rimini, in 1230, Grand Master Hermann von Salza and Duke Konrad I of Masovia launched the Prussian Crusade, intended to Christianize the Baltic Old Prussians.

Emperor Frederick II bestowed on the Order a special imperial privilege for the conquest and possession of Prussia, including the Polish territory of Chełmno, with nominal papal sovereignty. Starting from Chełmno Land, the Order created the independent Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, adding to it the conquered Prussian territory whose conquest was accomplished with much bloodshed over more than 50 years, and subsequently conquered Livonia. The Order ruled Prussia under charters issued by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor as a sovereign monastic state, comparable to the arrangement of the Knights Hospitallers in Rhodes and later in Malta. In 1337, Emperor Louis IV allegedly granted the Order the imperial privilege to conquer all Lithuania and Russia. During the reign of Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode (1351–1382), the Order reached the peak of its international prestige and hosted numerous European crusaders and nobility. In 1407, the Teutonic Order reached its greatest territorial extent and included vast territories of current-day North Germany (Prussia), Poland, Livonia, Estonia, Sweden (Gotland Island), and the islands of Dagö and Ösel.

Although the Order remained without a missionary purpose after the Christianization of Lithuania, it initiated campaigns against its Christian neighbors, the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Novgorod Republic. The Teutonic Knights had a strong economic base, hired mercenaries from throughout Europe and became a naval power in the Baltic Sea. In 1410, a Polish-Lithuanian army decisively defeated the Order and broke its military power at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg). When the peace treaty was signed in 1411, the Order managed to retain essentially all of its territories, although the Knights’ reputation as invincible warriors was irreparably damaged.

From 1515, when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I made a marriage alliance with Sigismund I of Poland-Lithuania, the Empire did not support any longer the Order against Poland. In 1525, Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg resigned and converted to Lutheranism, becoming Duke of Prussia and a vassal of Poland. Soon after, the Order lost Livonia and its holdings in the Protestant areas of Germany. After 1555, membership in the Order was open to Protestants, although the majority of brothers remained Catholic. The Teutonic Knights now were tri-denominational: Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed. The Grand Masters, mostly members of the great German families (and, after 1761, members of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine) continued to preside over the Order’s holdings in Germany. Teutonic Knights from Germany, Austria, and Bohemia were used as battlefield commanders leading mercenaries for the Habsburg Monarchy during the Ottoman wars in Europe. The military history of the Teutonic Knights ended in 1809, when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered their dissolution and the Order lost its remaining secular holdings to Napoleon’s vassals and allies.

The Roman Catholic order continued to exist in Austria, and from 1804 until 1923 it was headed by members of the Habsburg dynasty. In 1929, that branch of the Teutonic knights was converted to a purely spiritual Roman Catholic religious order and renamed the Deutscher Orden (“German Order”). After Austria’s annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, the Teutonic Order was suppressed and its members were persecuted by the German authorities, mainly due to Hitler’s and Himmler’s belief that Roman Catholic military-religious orders had been tools of the Holy See and as such constituted a threat to the Nazi regime. However, the Nazis used imagery of the medieval Teutonic knights for propagandistic purposes, trying to depict the Knights’ actions as a forerunner of the Nazi conquests for Lebensraum.

The Roman Catholic order survived in Italy, however, and was reconstituted in Germany and Austria in 1945. By the end of the 20th century, it had developed into a charitable organization and incorporated numerous clinics, as well as sponsoring excavation and tourism projects. The Roman Catholic branch now consists of approximately 1,000 members. While the priests are organized into six provinces (Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia) and predominantly provide spiritual guidance, the nuns primarily care for the ill and the aged. Associates are active in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Italy. Many of the priests care for German-speaking communities outside of Germany and Austria, especially in Italy and Slovenia; in this sense the Teutonic Order has returned to its 12th-century: the spiritual and physical care of Germans in foreign lands.

Military orders and Freemasonry

a) Templars

The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the “Templar” name alive into the modern day. The story of the secretive yet powerful medieval Templars, especially their persecution and sudden dissolution, has made many other groups to use alleged connections with the Templars as a way of enhancing their own image and mystery.

Without any clear historical connection with the Middle Age Knights Templar Order, the first organization to claim the Templar “heritage” was the Freemasonry, emerged publicly in the 18th century. The earliest documented link between Freemasonry and the Crusades is the 1737 oration of the Chevalier Ramsay, that claimed that European Freemasonry came about from an interaction between crusader masons and the Knights Hospitaller (who received the Templars’ assets). The same claim is mentioned in the earliest known the Berne manuscript, written in French between 1740 and 1744.

There is no known historical evidence to link the medieval Knights Templar and Masonic Templarism, nor do the Masonic Knights Templar organizations claim any such direct link to the original medieval Templar organization.Though it has been said that its affiliation with Masonry is based on texts that indicate persecuted Templars found refuge within the safety of Freemasonry, the order itself states that “there is no proof of direct connection between the ancient order and the modern order known today as the Knights Templar”.

Despite Freemasonry’s general disclaimer that no Masonic organization claims a direct heritage to the medieval Knights Templar, certain degrees and orders are obviously patterned after the medieval Order. These are best described as “commemorative orders” or degrees. Nevertheless, in spite of the fraternity’s official disclaimers, some Masons, non-Masons and even anti-Masons insist that certain Masonic rites or degrees originally had direct Templar influence.

The Templar Masons developed and extended in Scotland, England and Ireland, and currently the Knights Templar is an international philanthropic chivalric order affiliated with Freemasonry. The membership is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in the Christian religion. The full title of this Order is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta.

The word “United” in this title indicates that more than one historical tradition and more than one actual Order are jointly controlled within this system. The individual Orders “united” within this system are principally the Knights of the Temple (Knights Templar), the Knights of Malta, the Knights of St Paul, and only within the York Rite, the Knights of the Red Cross.

b) Knights of Malta

The Degree of Knight of Malta (the Order of Malta) also exists within the Freemasonry, universally associated with the Masonic Knights Templar and known by varying degrees of formality as the Order of Malta, or the Order of Knights of Malta, or the Ancient and Masonic Order of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta. In practice this last and fullest version of the name tends to be reserved to letterheads, rituals, and formal documents.

The ceremony for conferring the degree (which is always worked in full) contains a mixture of Masonic tradition, historical accounts of the Order of St John, moral teaching, and the communication of modes of recognition between members. A series of banners is employed in the ceremony, each representing one of the great battles of the historic medieval Order of St John, whose story is the basis of the moral teachings of the degree.


Traditionally, the Masonic ideology was considered by the Vatican as contrary to Catholicism, and, as early as 1738, Pope Clement XII issued a Papal Bull which stated that any Catholic who became a Mason would be excommunicated, a very serious punishment. In 1884, Pope Leo XIII issued a proclamation stating that the Masonry was one of the secret societies attempting to “revive the manners and customs of the pagans” and “establish Satan’s kingdom on Earth”.

However, in time, the growing number of people attracted by the Masonry and other secret societies – which may also be due to the effect of such societies’ using Catholic military orders’ symbols and rituals – led also to a revision of Vatican’s opposition to Catholics joining such groups. On November 27, 1983, Pope John Paul II retracted all of the Papal Bulls against Freemasonry and allowed Catholics, after several hundred years, to again become members of secret societies without fear of excommunication.

The gesture was also interpreted as evidence that in time, the Catholic Church had been infiltrated by the secret societies, mostly through links with the Church’s own groups that professed similar rules of secrecy, mainly the Jesuit Order and the Opus Dei .


III. Vatican’s soldiers and the secret societies


The Jesuits and the Illuminati

The religious order of the Society of Jesus (Societas Iesu, S.J., SJ or SI), also called “God’s Soldiers”, was founded on 15 August 1534, by former soldier Ignatius of Loyola (born Íñigo López de Loyola), a Spaniard of Basque origin who wounded in battle and experienced a religious conversion, and six other students at the University of Paris. They called themselves “the Company of Jesus”, and also “Amigos en El Señor” (Friends in the Lord), because they felt “they were placed together by Christ”. They professed vows of poverty, chastity, and later obedience, including a special vow of obedience to the Pope. In 1537, they traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. These initial steps led to the founding of what would be called the Society of Jesus later in 1540. They presented the project to the Pope Paul III. A congregation of cardinals reported favorably upon the Constitution presented, and Paul III confirmed the order through the Bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae (To the Government of the Church Militant), on 27 September 1540, but limited the number of its members to sixty. This is the founding document of the Jesuits as an official Catholic religious order. This limitation was removed through the bull Exposcit debitum. Ignatius was chosen as the first superior-general. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. By the time of Ignatius’ death in 1556, the Jesuits were already operating a network of 74 colleges on three continents.

The Jesuit teachers trained in both classical studies and theology. Though not initially formed for the purpose, they were an important tool in the process of Counter Reformation, aimed to stop Protestantism from spreading and to preserve communion with the Papacy. The zeal of the Jesuits overcame the drift toward Protestantism in Poland, current-day Lithuania and southern Germany. They also sent out missionaries across the globe to evangelize the natives, founding missions in diverse regions, such as modern-day Paraguay, Japan, Ontario, and Ethiopia. The Society’s distinctive feature is its members’ willingness to accept orders anywhere in the world and to live in extreme conditions where required. The Jesuit Constitutions, written by Ignatius of Loyola and adopted in 1554, created a tightly centralized organization and stressed total abnegation and obedience to the Pope and their religious superiors. Ignatius is also known to have written: “…I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it”.

By the mid-18th century, the Society had acquired a reputation in Europe for political maneuvering and economic exploitation. The Jesuits were regarded by their opponents as greedy plotters, prone to meddle in state affairs through their close ties with influential members of the royal court in order to further the special interests of their order and the Papacy. Monarchs in many European states grew progressively wary of what they saw as undue interference from a foreign entity. The expulsion of Jesuits from their states had the added benefit of allowing governments to impound the Society’s accumulated wealth and possessions. The disputes culminated in the dissolution of the Society by the Pope, on July 21 1773, in most of Europe, and even some executions.  The suppression was carried out in all countries except Prussia and Russia, where Catherine the Great had forbidden the papal decree to be executed. Because millions of Catholics (including many Jesuits) lived in the Polish provinces that were annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia, the Society was able to maintain its existence and carry on its work all through the period of suppression.

After 1815, with the Restoration, the Catholic Church began to play a more welcome role in European political life once more. Nation by nation, the Jesuits became re-established. In Switzerland, Jesuits were banished in 1848 and the ban was lifted on 20 May 1973, when 54.9% of voters accepted a referendum modifying the Constitution.

Many historians consider that the suppression of the order was the result of a series of political and economic conflicts rather than a theological controversy and the assertion of nation-state independence against the Catholic Church. The expulsion of the Society of Jesus from the Roman Catholic nations of Europe and their colonial empires is also seen as one of the early manifestations of the new secularist zeitgeist of the Enlightenment that peaked with the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. The suppression was also seen as being an attempt by monarchs to gain control of revenues and trade that were previously dominated by the Society of Jesus.

Currently, the Jesuits form the largest single religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church, with members serving in 112 nations on six continents with the largest number in India and the USA. Jesuits work in education (founding schools, colleges, universities and seminaries), intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes and promote social justice and ecumenical dialogue. In the United States alone, it maintains over 50 colleges, universities and high schools. Georgetown was the first Jesuit university, founded in 1789. The order has become known for academic rigor seen in the universities they built in the U.S. and around the world. Jesuit scientists have made so many advances in astronomy, physics and mathematics that 35 moon craters have been named in their honor. But partly because of these intellectual achievements, claims of elitism often surround the society.

Jesuits also remained a target for conspiracy theorists who believe the priests are plotting to control or overthrow governments and are behind many secret societies. In one of the most controversial books against the order, “Understanding the New World Order, World Government and World Religion” written in 1986 by Roy Livesey, the Jesuits are portrayed as ruling the world from behind the scene. The United States is seen as a last battle front by the Vatican for the control of new world order. The author also claimed to have found links between the Jesuits and such groups as the Order of the Illuminati, as well as the Freemasonry, dating since the 16th century. In Livesey’s book, the Illuminati platform is said to have been first developed by the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola.

The book also revealed that of 56 persons who signed the Declaration of Independence document of United States in 1778, 15 of them were Masons and others Jesuits. Livesey also stated 28 of the 40 signers of the USA constitution were high degree Masons. From this premise, Livesey concluded that Jesuits supported the Freemasonry against colonial England during the American Revolution because they wanted to undermine United Kingdom. That explains, in his view, why the two bodies have continued to have an overwhelming influence in the government and politics of the United States ever since. Livesey also claims that Jesuits have links with international bankers, wars and are instigations of revolutions. Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” as well as “The Communist Manifesto” of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels are said to have Jesuits’ input.

Other conspiracy theories having the Jesuits as main actors are to be found in the writings of Eric Jon Phelps, mainly in his book “The Vatican Assassins”. According to Phelps, the Jesuits have the real supremacy in financial, media and political fields, and they “always put Jews in the forefront-so that they can blame all of what they do on the Jewish race”. He also claims the Jesuits authored the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, control all secret agencies including KGB, CIA, Mossad, BND and SIS. He also attacks the Knights of Malta on a regular basis. Phelps is also of the opinion that the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (nicknamed the Black Pope) is the real leader of the Catholic Church, rather than the “Bishop of Rome” whom he calls the “White Pope”.

Such theories link closely the Jesuits and the secret society of the Illuminati (with some saying that the Jesuits being in control and having inspired the Illuminati and other that the Illuminati have infiltrated the Catholic Church) as having inspired and working to instate the New World Order.

The Illuminati

The Illuminati (which is the plural of Illuminatus, “enlightened”) were a secret society founded in Bavaria (Germany) on May 1, 1776 by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt. It was made up of freethinkers as an offshoot of the Enlightenment and modeled in pyramid-like fashion, similar to the Freemasons. Since Weishaupt’s idea was founded on the impossible dream of human perfection, in the beginning his first followers took the name of Perfectibilists, but in the end, the society was founded under the name of the Illuminati. The date was also significant since May 1st is the celebration date of the Celtic pagan festival of Beltane that, wherever possible, takes place on hills pyramidal in shape.

The Illuminati’s members took a vow of secrecy and pledged obedience to their superiors. Members were divided into three main classes, each with several degrees, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges. According to several historians, the group was backed financially by a group of bankers under the House of Rothschild.

The goals of the organization included trying to eliminate superstition, prejudice, and the Roman Catholic Church’s domination over government, philosophy, and science. The Order was to work incessantly for the day, in Weishaupt’s words, when “Princes and Nations shall disappear from off the face of the earth”. The order had branches in most European countries: it reportedly had around 2,000 members over the span of ten years and attracted literary men such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (whose Faust, was speculated to be an Illuminist allegory) and Johann Gottfried Herder, as well as the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar.

In 1777, the Bavarian government banned all secret societies including the Illuminati, with the encouragement of the Roman Catholic Church, and the group was permanently disbanded in 1785. In the several years following, the group was said to have regrouped and were responsible for the French Revolution. The disbanding of the Order of the Illuminati failed to dissipate the festering rumors of the sect’s influence and size. Within certain segments of the state and church, it was thought that the Order had burrowed still further underground, and was at work throughout the continent under many different guises.

Illuminism rose again in the early 1900s, with a wave of writings plots, secret societies, Illuminists and Masons determined to bring down the edifices of state and church. Jews, Cabalists, Freemasons, Anarchists, Illuminists, occultists and heretics of all varieties were linked in a grand conspiracy running back through history to establish what some imaginatively termed an “Occult Theocracy”.

Conspiracy theorists also believe that the Illuminati survived, most likely by hiding among the Freemasons. Proponents of these theories believe that major world events are being caused or exploited by this group with the end goal of creating a New World Order. This plan entails a one world, government, currency, religion, and language in many cases. These ideals will be shared with the public as a good thing and a final solution to all the wars, famine, bigotry, and other problems in the world, but the true plan is to empower a small ruling elite with complete control over large number of serfs.

The Illuminati are supposedly at the origins of such groups as the Bilderberg group and other powerful international think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and so on[7]. Major world figures were or are said to be Illuminati, including Winston Churchill, David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski, among many others. Likewise, there are many different U.S. groups accused with being affiliated with the group besides the Freemasons, including Skull and Bones, The Bohemian Society, and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

A special mention should be made for Skull and Bones, an undergraduate senior secret society at the famous U.S. Yale University, founded in 1832 and which quickly acquired a reputation of having a membership that is heavily tilted towards the American “Power Elite”. In 1985, an anonymous source leaked rosters to Antony C. Sutton, the author of a book on the group titled America’s Secret Establishment: an Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones. This list and other subsequent documents cited among the Skull and Bone members: former Presidents George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush; Supreme Court Justices Morrison R. Waite and Potter Stewart,  James Jesus Angleton, one of the CIA’s personalities; Henry Luce, founder and publisher of Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated magazines, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State and former Senator; Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers; Harold Stanley, co-founder of Morgan Stanley; and Frederick W. Smith, founder of Fedex, the first presidents of the University of California, Johns Hopkins University and Cornell University, and many others.

Skull and Bones is also known as “322” which appears in the emblem of the society and is believed to stand for “founded in ‘32, 2nd corps”, referring to a first Corps in an unknown German university. This prompted some researchers to link Skulls and Bones to the Bavarian Illuminati, who hid among the Freemasons and have as a main goal to destroy religions, and governments from within, merge the destroyed countries, and to bring about a new world order, in their secret control.

Other theories claim that the Vatican has been infiltrated over many years by the Illuminati, having as main arguments the fact that many leading Catholic figures, including Popes, were exposed as members of secret societies. Also, the use of Illuminati symbols, mainly the “all-seeing eye” by the Catholic leaders is considered as a sign of such a relationship.

One of the sources for this theory is a 1976 issue of the Journal “Borghese” that included a list of 125 top clerics who were Freemasons in contravention of Church law. It also mentioned their dates of initiation and secret code names taken from the Italian Register of Secret Societies. The exposed members included, among others, former Pope Paul VI’s private secretary, the director general of Vatican radio, the Archbishop of Florence, the prelate of Milan, the assistant editor of the Vatican newspaper, several Italian bishops, and the abbot of the Order of St. Benedict.

Pope John Paul II, who issued the Papal Bull that lifted the ban on the secret societies, is also considered as having been an Illuminati member.

As to the “all-seeing eye” in the triangle, it is found in the seal of the Philadelphia Eucharistic Congress in 1976, on a special issue of Vatican stamps in 1978 and Pope John XXIII was said to have worn it on his personal cross.

Opus Dei: Catholic masonry?

Opus Dei, formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. It was founded in Spain in 1928 by the Catholic priest St. Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer and it was given final Catholic Church approval in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. In 1982, it was given the status of personal prelature meaning that the jurisdiction of its own bishop covers the persons in Opus Dei wherever they are.

According to its founder, Josemaria Escrivá, Opus Dei originates in a vision he had in which he “saw Opus Dei (God’s work)”. He summarized Opus Dei’s mission as a way of helping ordinary Christians “to understand that their life… is a way of holiness and evangelization… And to those who grasp this ideal of holiness, the Work offers the spiritual assistance and training they need to put it into practice”. From the beginning, Escrivá targeted top students at universities, and Opus Dei soon acquired a reputation for elitism, having 15 universities, including some of the finest in Spain.

The distinct feature of Opus Dei is the fact that most of its members are not priests, but lay people, men and women. As of 2010, out of the more than 90,000 members of the Prelature in over 90 countries, the lay persons numbered 88,245 and there were 2,015 priests. Opus Dei organizes training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life. Aside from personal charity and social work, Opus Dei members are involved in running universities, university residences, schools, publishing houses, and technical and agricultural training centers. Another distinctive trait is the fact that Opus Dei emphasizes uniting spiritual life with professional, social, and family life. Members of Opus Dei lead ordinary lives and strive to “sanctify ordinary life”. Pope John Paul II called Escrivá “the saint of ordinary life”, stressing that his ideas anticipated the theology of the lay state of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar period.

The peculiarities of the order stimulated the conspiracy theories about Opus Dei ever since its beginnings, when Opus Dei’s influence was confirmed by the fact that several leading members of General Franco’s government in Spain were devout followers. Throughout its history, Opus Dei has been criticized from many quarters, being described as “the most controversial force in the Catholic Church”. The organization has been criticized for issues relating to the Catholic Church, especially the practice of mortification of the flesh, but also for alleged secretiveness, aggressive recruiting methods, and strict rules governing members.

The organization’s members have also been categorized by critics as right-leaning elitists, with some individuals supporting fascist governments, such as the Franco Government of Spain until 1978, the Chilean Pinochet regime in the 1980ies and Alberto Fujimori of Peru, during the 1990ies. Both Pinochet’s and Fujimori’s ministries and prominent supporters allegedly included members of Opus Dei, even if other prominent Opus Dei members were in parties that opposed those governments.

Opus Dei’s reputation as a quasi-Masonic club for the intellectual elite has endured to the extent that many Catholics are suspicious of its activities even today. Criticism took also form of an internet-based blogging website called the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN) whose Web page is sub-headed “Bringing light to Opus Dei’s Questionable Practices”. Critics also state that Opus Dei is “intensely secretive”, with members generally not disclosing their affiliation (under the 1950 constitution, members were expressly forbidden to reveal themselves without the permission of their superiors).

The speedy canonization, in 2002, of the movement’s founder by Pope John Paul II also raised suspicions, being considered as a sure sign of the organization’s ill-gotten wealth and malign influence. Suspicions about the group also rose in the context of the spy scandal surrounding Robert Hanssen (a FBI agent who sold secrets to the Russians) who was, together with his wife, a member of Opus Dei and confessed his spying to an Opus Dei priest. In an example of why Opus Dei’s spirituality is considered worrisome, the priest told Hanssen to stop spying and to give the money to charity, but not to turn himself in. In the context of the Hanssen case, former FBI director Louis Freeh was also said to be an Opus Dei member.

Conspiracy theorists were also attracted by Opus Dei after the success of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” (book and movie) in which Opus Dei is portrayed as a Catholic organization that is led into a sinister international conspiracy.


IV. Vatican and the Totalitarian temptation


The policies of the Vatican aimed to extend and consolidate its religious and economic power in Europe and worldwide brought the Papacy in an often criticized relationship with totalitarian ideologies and regimes. From the German dominated Holy Roman Empire to Napoleon, the Nazis and the South American dictators, the Papacy was seen by many historians as disposed to accept totalitarianism, if not in order to foster its own dominating ambitions, at least to protect and ensure a privileged place for the Catholic religion. This aspect is most important, since recent history has seen the Vatican becoming one of the main actors in the final phase of the West’s cold war against Communism in Eastern Europe, whose regimes were also totalitarian, but at the same time Atheist.

The Vatican and Fascism

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Catholic Church was considered to have lost ground in the competition with Protestant Christianity and modern rationalist culture, even in nations where it was the dominant religion. While Popes and the hierarchy sometimes allowed for reforms, they also worked to restore monarchies and to maintain a privileged position for the Catholic Church in the nations where it was dominant.

After World War I, the emergence of Russia (USSR) as an atheist bastion brought a new challenge to the Church. The Catholic Church feared the consequences of Communist conquest or revolution in Europe. German Christians were alarmed by the aggressive spread of militant atheism in Russia. The views on religion taken by the Communists from 19th century German sociologist Karl Marx had pitted them against religious organizations like the Catholic Church.

In his anti-Pius XII polemic “Hitler’s Pope” (1999), John Cornwell asserts that Pius XI and his secretary of state, Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) were determined that, at a time that saw the church persecuted by Communists and socialist regimes from Russia to Mexico and later Spain, no accommodation was to be reached with Communists. At the same time, Cornwell alleges that Pius XI and Pacelli were more open to collaboration with totalitarian movements and regimes of the right.

Other critic historians pointed out to ideological similarities between the Catholic doctrine and the totalitarian system, including ones that come from ancient theologians. They invoke St. Thomas Aquinas’ (1225-1274) Summa Theologiae, in which they identified similarities with the economic concepts of the totalitarian regimes (both fascist and communist), such as: “the possession of all things in common and universal freedom are said to be of the natural law because, to wit, the distinction of possessions and slavery were not brought in by nature, but devised by human reason for the benefit of human life”.

Also invoked is Pope Pius XI’s (between February 6, 1922 and February 10, 1939) encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931), which mentions that “under Fascism, property owners may keep their property titles and deeds, but the use of their property is, as Leo XIII wrote, “common”. Fascism is a form of socialism that retains the forms and trappings of capitalism, but not its substance. Under Fascism, property titles and deeds are intact, but the institution of private property has disappeared. Government regulations and mandates have replaced it. For this distinction between legal ownership and actual use, the fascists owe a debt to Roman Church-State”. In the Vatican critics’ opinion, Pope Pius XI is considered to be one of the main architects of the concept of the modern totalitarian state because, having sought to create a Catholic, fascist, super-state under Papal domination in Europe, he backed the ascendancy of the Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and General Pétain.

Also invoked was Hitler’s statements about having “learned from the Jesuit orders” and the similarities between the oath of direct obedience to the Führer and the special oath of the Jesuits to the pope, as well as the fact that Hitler ordered SS officers to study the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola for training in the rigid discipline of the faith.

Other historians stress that Vatican’s moves were aimed to create a new Holy Roman Empire and, if Hitler had defeated Russia and then Britain, they would have succeeded. Hitler wanted only one state religion, his own Catholic. In time, the Church would have gained control of Hitler’s successors.

However, the main accusations against Vatican are political, relating to its relationship with the emerging Nazi regimes in Austria and Germany.

In Austria, in 1922, Prelate Ignaz Seipel, who became head of the Austrian Catholic Party is said to have been working closely with Pope Pius XI, helping him to draft the above-mentioned encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, that some considered to be a blueprint for a Catholic, fascist world government. In October 1928, Seipel declared himself a fascist and attempted to take control of the government in the fashion of Mussolini’s March on Rome. He was thwarted when the Governments in Britain and France declared that a fascist government in Austria would be a violation of the World War I peace treaty between the nations.

After Seipel died (September 2, 1932), Dr. Englebert Dollfuss took his place and declared that the issuance of Quadragesimo Anno by Pius XI in 1931 authorized him to set up a “Corporate Authoritarian State”. After Hitler assumed power in Berlin, Dollfuss declared parliament abolished and made himself dictator. Anti-Semitism was made official policy and Catholicism became the only legal religion. Vatican’s Concordat (treaty) with Austria in 1934 made Catholicism the official (and only) religion of Austria.

In Germany, while Hitler’s rise has to be credited mainly to him and his party, it was also stressed that it was the Catholic Church, and the votes of the members of the Reichstag controlled by the Vatican, that effectively chose to give Hitler power in 1933.

Under the Reichskonkordat, signed on July 20, 1933, the church was promised autonomy of its institutions and their religious activities but had to cease political activism. Article 16 required the German Bishops to take an oath of loyalty to the German Reich i.e., the constitutional government of Germany. Hitler welcomed the agreement, but it was the first of many treaties he would violate, and proceeded to repress the activities of the Church along with all other non-Nazi institutions.

Many historians consider the Reichskonkordat an important step toward the international acceptance of Hitler’s Nazi regime, and in his controversial book Hitler’s Pope, British writer John Cornwell charged that Pius XII had assisted the legitimization of the Nazi regime by agreeing the 1933 Reichskonkordat.

The book was also critical of Pius’ conduct during the war, arguing that he did not “do enough”, or “speak out enough”, against the Holocaust. Cornwell wrote that Pius’ entire career as the nuncio to Germany, cardinal secretary of state, and pope was characterized by a desire to increase and centralize the power of the Papacy, and that he subordinated opposition to the Nazis to that goal. Other historians and politicians criticized Pius XII for his cautious approach and his hesitation to publicly condemn the Nazi atrocities.

The accusations against Pope Pius XII became, in the words of current Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, a “black legend”, since many historians also point out that Vatican’s and Pius XII’s attitude and actions were being motivated by diplomatic factors and the need to protect not only the Catholics but all the victims of the Nazis.

It is also mentioned that the first official public document to criticize Nazism was the 1937 Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With burning concern), signed by Pope Pius XI, which condemned the Nazi theory of racism. Smuggled into Germany to avoid censorship and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it condemned Nazi ideology as being “insane and arrogant”. It also denounced the Nazi myth of “blood and soil”, decried the neopaganism of Nazism, its war of annihilation against the Church, and even described the Führer himself as a “mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance”.

As to the diplomatic aspects, it was stressed that, without being even-handed and also condemning Stalin’s atrocities against Soviet and Polish citizens, the Pope would be vulnerable to accusations of bias. The Allies were also anxious to prevent a Papal condemnation of Stalin, which would have hurt the Allied effort. Pius XII also never publicly condemned the Nazi massacre of Catholic Poles nor did he ever publicly condemn the Soviet Union for the deaths of 1,000,000 mainly Catholic Polish citizens.

Other historians assess that, before as well as during the war, Pope Pius XII chose to use diplomacy to aid the persecuted and, although a more forthright condemnation of the Holocaust would have better assured his reputation, it would have been less effective in saving many lives. There is evidence that Pius may have helped arranged the exodus of 200,000 Jews from Germany in the 1930s. While still a cardinal, he is said to have written to archbishops around the world urging them to secure visas for “non-Aryan Catholics” and Jewish converts to Christianity to travel to their countries from Germany.

After the war, several Jewish personalities spoke in favor of the Catholic Church and Pius XII, such as Albert Einstein (who said that only the Church stood against Hitler), Golda Meir (while she was Israel’s foreign minister), former Israel Consul in Milan and theologian Pinchas Lapide, U.S. Rabbi David Dalin (who said that Pius XII saved more Jews than Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler) and Abraham Foxman, one of the founders of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.

However, the speculations about the extent to which Pius cooperated with the Fascist regime in Italy and Nazi Germany persisted and were even strengthened by the Vatican’s refusal so far to give scholars access to the archives from his reign. Even the moves towards canonizing Pius XII that have been under way in Rome for decades were stopped when a group of prominent Roman Catholic scholars publicly urged Pope Emeritus Benedict to halt the process until more was known about his wartime role by opening the archives. Recently, Pope Francis I made what was seen as a new “revolutionary” move, contemplating the opening of the Vatican archives on the subject.

According Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Argentina who recently co-authored “On Heaven and Earth”, a book of interviews with former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said the new Pope had made clear that he thought Pius’ legacy ought to be “investigated thoroughly”. Rabbi Skorka also said that he had no doubts that Pope Francis will “move to open the archives”.

Rabbi Skorka built a close friendship with Cardinal Bergoglio during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The two leaders attended each other’s services and their friendship paved the way for a closer relationship between Catholics and Jews in Argentina, which has the largest Jewish population in Latin America.

Against Communism

The end of World War II brought Communism as the West’s main enemy in the Cold War and consequently, the leading capitalist nations, Britain and the United States, wanted allies against Communism. In this process, Vatican became an ally in the new war, notwithstanding its former relationship with the Nazi regimes, in a similar way with other European political actors, such as Spain’s General Franco.

Most historians agree that the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was greatly helped by Vatican’s fundamental policy shift that started in 1978 with Pope John Paul II (Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla), who continued at the Vatican, the actions against Communism that he began since his youth in Poland. Rather than tolerating Communism to win the regimes’ tolerance for the church, John Paul II gave public expression to stern criticism of Communism’s disregard for the value of the individual and the sacredness of the individual’s work.

On the other hand, Pope John appointed as Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the architect of the Vatican’s “Ostpolitik” efforts to reach workable compromises with communist regimes. By doing so, he created tactical advantages for the Church: as the Pope preached moral revolution, speaking directly to the people, Cardinal Casaroli continued his diplomacy, thus denying the Communists the opportunity to charge that the Church had reneged on its commitment to dialogue.

As a young priest, Karol Wojtyla was known as an eclectic, ready to make alliances with outsiders to the Church. From early on, he cultivated small groups and encouraged arguments about politics, religion, even relationships, in what was to be called “zones of freedom” where everyone could sense the “solidarity” which made possible the later revolution and became the name of the trade union that led it. It was no accident that the Polish church became a primary force behind the resistance against communism, uniting both Catholics and non-Catholic Poles in solidarity against communism. As Pope, Karol Wojtyla became the major source of hope and encouragement to his countryman Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity workers’ union.

According to most historians, John Paul II’s 1979 trip to Poland triggered the process which led to the collapse of Communism. This was put very clearly by British historian Timothy Garton Ash: “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism”. In fact, Gorbachev himself recognized that “It would have been impossible without the Pope”.

The process was greatly accelerated by the joining of the forces with the new United States’ Ronald Reagan Administration. From 1981, the U.S.A. shifted from the traditional “containment” policy towards the Soviet and decided to directly challenge it. Over the next few years, the Reagan Administration intensified the military buildup, as well as the U.S.’ backing of anti-Communist movements all over the world.

In this campaign, Ronald Reagan also firmly believed in both the benefits and the practical applications of Washington’s relationship with the Vatican. One of his earliest goals as President was to recognize the Vatican as a state “and make them an ally”.

Washington and the Vatican got in contact concerning the situation in Poland immediately after the Communist government declared martial law on Dec. 13, 1981 against the Solidarity trade union movement. Shortly after Polish security forces moved into the streets, Ronald Reagan called the Pope for his advice, both agreeing that Solidarity must be kept alive. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the Pope had already advised Solidarity’s leader Lech Walesa through church channels to keep his movement operating underground, to avoid the risk of provoking Warsaw Pact intervention or civil war with Polish security forces.

By most accounts, CIA Director William Casey stepped into the vacuum in the first days after the declaration of martial law in Poland and he became the principal policy architect. On almost all his trips to Europe and the Middle East, Casey flew first to Rome, so that he could meet with John Paul II and exchange information. According to CIA historians, in Poland, Casey conducted the kind of old-style operation that he might have done in his days at the Office of Strategic Services during World War II or in the early years of the CIA, when the democracies of Western Europe rose from the ashes of World War II.

Less than three weeks before his meeting with the Pope in 1982, President Reagan signed a secret national-security-decision directive (NSDD 32) that authorized a range of economic, diplomatic and covert measures to “neutralize efforts of the USSR” to maintain its hold on Eastern Europe. In practical terms, the most important covert operations undertaken were those inside Poland. The primary purposes of NSDD 32 were to destabilize the Polish government through covert operations involving propaganda and organizational aid to Solidarity; the promotion of human rights, particularly those related to the right of worship and the Catholic Church; economic pressure; and diplomatic isolation of the communist regime. The document, citing the need to defend democratic reform efforts throughout the Soviet empire, also called for increasing propaganda and underground broadcasting operations in Eastern Europe, actions that Reagan’s aides and dissidents in Eastern Europe believe were particularly helpful in chipping away at the notion of Soviet invincibility.

On Monday, June 7, 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II met at the Vatican and agreed to undertake a clandestine campaign to hasten the dissolution of the communist empire. According to Richard Allen, Reagan’s first National Security Adviser, it was “one of the great secret alliances of all time”. According to their aides, both Reagan and John Paul II refused to accept the political fact of their lifetimes: the division of Europe as mandated at Yalta and the communist dominance of Eastern Europe. A free, noncommunist Poland, they were convinced, would be a dagger to the heart of the Soviet empire; and if Poland became democratic, other East European states would follow. Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981.

During the next years, Polish trade union “Solidarity” flourished underground, supplied, nurtured and advised largely by the network established under the auspices of Reagan and John Paul II. Tons of equipment were smuggled into Poland via channels established by priests, American agents and representatives of the AFL-CIO and European labor movements. Money for the banned union came from CIA funds, the National Endowment for Democracy, secret accounts in the Vatican and Western trade unions. Laundering Vatican money through Latin America (mostly Panama), millions were slipped to the Solidarity movement, both from Vatican and from the CIA, with the Vatican’s main conduit being Banco Ambrosiano.

Step by step, the Soviets and the communist government of Poland bowed to the pressure. On Feb. 19, 1987, after Warsaw had pledged to open a dialogue with the church, Reagan lifted U.S. sanctions. Four months later, Pope John Paul II was cheered by millions as he traveled across Poland demanding human rights and praising Solidarity. In July 1988, Gorbachev visited Warsaw and signaled Moscow’s recognition that the government could not rule without Solidarity’s cooperation. On April 5, 1989, the two sides signed agreements legalizing Solidarity and calling for open parliamentary elections. In December 1990, nine years after he was arrested and his labor union banned, Lech Walesa became President of Poland.

While most historians acknowledge the Vatican’s contribution to the fall of communism, there are also opinions that its effort was less coordinated with the U.S., mainly based on the fact that Karol Wojtyla’s opposition antedated any meeting with Reagan or William Casey and Reagan and John Paul II contributed in separate ways, to the fall of communism. For other historians, the Washington-Vatican alliance didn’t cause the fall of communism but, like all great and lucky leaders, the Pope and the President exploited the forces of history to their own ends.

Vaclav Havel, the former dissident who became President of Czechoslovakia, was also cautious about singling out any one person – Gorbachev, Reagan or John Paul II – as the prime mover in the fall of Communism. He called the Pope’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland “a miracle” and credited John Paul II’s contribution during the trip, but was also careful to place John Paul II in a historical narrative.

After the fall of communism, Pope John Paul II released the encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991), which explained within a Christian framework why communism had failed and from that failure drew lessons about social, political and economic organization.

The lessons Centesimus Annus drew from the practical failures of communism also undermined the theoretical and any possible theological justification of collectivism. At the same time, Centesimus Annus is also considered as a giving up of the church’s historical fear that capitalism and free markets breed vice among the faithful, by acknowledging the beneficial social outcomes that human freedom, private property and free markets can produce. Thus, the Vatican managed again to adapt to the coming challenges of the globalization.


V. Vatican and the new world order


Most analysts agree that, with the fall of Communism and the globalization process, the Vatican was able to adapt and follow its own global agenda, aiming to extend worldwide its influence not only in the religious but also in the secular world, by promoting new concepts that are seen by some critics as too close to the “New World Order” of the Illuminati.

This concept is seen as being consistent with the aim of historical Rome, which has always been one of global domination, with the Catholic Church to be the spokesman for and to all religions. Its principles of natural law are to be the controlling principles over all religions. The Pope would like to be the universal ruler and to unite all religious systems under one law, a law based on “reason”, the natural law of the Roman Catholic Church.

Such critics claim that the Papacy was subverted by the Illuminati as early as 1958, when John XXIII became Pope. His first act was to begin to remove the element of Divine Revelation from Catholic teaching, and to embrace naturalism and materialism, at the Ecumenical Council in 1962 and Vatican Two in 1965.

Another significant step is seen to have occurred in October 1965, when Pope Paul VI gave to the United Nations a speech without a single reference to the religious doctrines. The speech was followed by a visit of the “Meditation Room” of the U.N., which is considered to be a centre of the Illuminati dedicated to the “Cult of the All-Seeing Eye”. The initiation ritual by Pope Paul VI in the Meditation Room of the United Nations was a phase of a process that would be followed by the building in New York of the “Temple of Understanding” that represented six world faiths, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Confucianism, and Christianity, thus setting the stage for the formation and announcement of the New World Order Religion.

Besides his contribution to the fall of Communism, Pope John Paul II is also considered a promoter of the New World Order. In 1986, John Paul II participated in a multi-religious prayer for world peace, at the celebrations in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, which stressed the unity of all the world’s religions. The Pope shared a platform with a Tibetan Lama, a Hindu swami, a Native American medicine man, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Maori high priest. In his 2004 New Year message, Pope John Paul II called for a “new world order… based on the goals of the United Nations”.

Pope John Paul II’s position about the New World Order would be echoed in December 1989 by U.S. President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev’s historic meeting in Malta during which “both hope to start the search for a New World Order” (according to New York Times, December 1, 1989).

John Paul’s preoccupations about the New World Order and religion are continued by the Vatican-founded “Pope John Paul II Center for Prayer and Study for Peace” in Springlake, New Jersey, whose Directors were Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Cyrus Vance, former Secretary of State and member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission; Clare Booth Luce, a dame of the Knights of Malta; and J. Peter Grace, who was head of the Knights of Malta in the United States. The Center, set up as a part of the Pope’s plan to bring the world together, has two roles: (1) Educate Catholics and their children to accept the New World Order. (2) Provide residence for a “world-peace-solution computer”, connected to the world capitals via satellite. According to anti-Illuminati sources, when the New World Order is proclaimed, all nations will have agreed to relinquish sovereignty to the Pope and submit their problems to the computer for solution.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the trend set by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to unite all the world’s religions into one so the New World Order Religion can be formed. In his sermon for Christmas 2005, he mentioned: The life-giving power of his (Christ’s, n.a.) light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships. May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a ‘family’ called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support. A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet”.

On June 29, 2009, the Pope made another speech, calling for a “God-centered” global economy. In his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (June 29, 2009), the Pope called for a reform of the UN that will establish a “true world political authority” with “real teeth” to manage the global economy with God-centered ethics.

According to Catholic theorists, the globalization-brought changes and the Vatican policies to adapt to these changes led to an emerging “new face of the Catholic Church” that of a world church, a body of Christ, which for the first time in its history has grown beyond its Judeo-Christian, Greek and Latin classical heritage to encompass the geographical and cultural diversities of the entire globe. It became a world church, but also it became subject to forces beyond its control. One of these forces is the evolution of a multi-polar world, united by networks of exchange, means of communication and universal expansion of market capitalism.

Another such force is demography, since by the end of the 20th century, 65.5 percent of the Catholic population lived in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Sociologists already called Christianity’s (mainly Catholicism’s) shift from Europe to the Third World a “New Christendom” with global consequences, or a new age of “post-Christendom,” when one could no longer assume any connection between religion and political order. Since, from the start of the twenty-first century, the whole concept of the nation-state is itself under challenge, many of these communities have begun to re-imagine themselves. In Europe, loyalties to the nation as such are being replaced by newer forms of adherence, whether to larger (Europe itself) or smaller (regions or ethnic groups) entities.


With or without being an adept of the New World Order, and in the process of adapting itself to the globalization, Vatican analysts stress that Papacy is bound to take into account that parallels with the cosmopolitan world of the Middle Ages might appear, even a possible emergence of a movement or ideology that could create a modern and secular equivalent of the Western Christendom in the Middle Ages. Such a new ideological force might be environmentalism but, especially in the southern hemisphere, the regions where the state is weaker are those in which political loyalties are secondary to religious beliefs, either Muslim or Christian. The new Christian world of the south could find unity in common religious beliefs.

No less than the Christian world, the Muslim world will be transformed by the future demographic trends, with Muslim and Christian nations expanding adjacent to each other, often within the same country. It is likely that population growth will be accompanied by intensified rivalry, struggles for converts, and competition to enforce moral codes by means of secular law. Whether Muslim or Christian, religious zeal can easily turn into fanaticism, with the risk to provoke civil wars that could easily become international conflicts. A worst-case scenario would include a wave of religious conflicts reminiscent of the Middle Ages, a new age of Christian crusades and Muslim jihads.

It is also conceivable that within a few decades the two faiths will be able to coexist, but analysts consider this outcome as rather unlikely. It is quite possible to imagine a future Christendom not too different from the old, defined less by any ideological harmony than by its unity against a common outside threat. We must hope that a new Vatican-led Res Publica Christiana does not confront an equally militant Muslim world, Dar al-Islam, lest we go full circle back to the worst features of the thirteenth century.

[1] This function is regulated by the Monetary Agreement between the European Union and the Vatican City State, authorizing the use of the Euro as the official currency of Vatican City, and implementation of the agreement within the state is overseen by the Financial Information Authority established on 30 December 2010.

[2] Leo IX is considered to be the first pope to derive the basis of his wars from religion, harmonizing them with the commands of the church and infusing religious meaning into the warlike mentality of the army. The polarizing of the idea of Christendom and the reformation of military actions as moral were key steps in the shaping of what would later become the papacy sponsored forces of the First Crusade.

[3] In 1074, Pope Gregory VII received emissaries from Constantinople asking for the aid of the West against the Islamic force. The first evidence of a planned expedition to the East is a letter from Gregory VII to William of Upper Burgundy which describes his plan to form a contingent and go to the aid of the Eastern Church. The plan, developed while Gregory VII was in the process of securing papal power in Europe, and the goal of his crusade appeared to be more of an attempt to unify Christendom, the East and the West, around him and the papacy.


[4] Urban II also remained in the Papacy’s history as a builder of the Papal structures, by setting up what was to become the Roman Curia as a royal court to help run the Church. The word “curia” (a Latin term of Etruscan origin, meaning a subdivision of the tribe, and, for the Romans, the deliberation room of the Senate and then the Senate itself) was first used in a papal document in 1089, during the reign of Urban II.

[5] The German colonists from this region were attested in documents from 1192, when terra Bozza is mentioned as being settled by Germans (Theutonici).

[6] The Teutonic Knights returned to Transylvania after the Conference of Lutsk in 1429, when Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, suggested that they defend the region during the Ottoman wars in Europe. Led by Claus von Redewitz, a detachment of knights from Prussia was stationed in the Burzenland until half were killed during an Ottoman campaign in 1432.

[7] These groups were presented and analyzed in a previous paper

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