Cardinal Siri asks God for forgiveness


August 4, 2006


H.  Spigornell


While Giuseppe Siri may not have announced publicly that he had ever been elected pope, he did throw us a few intriguing hints to that effect some months before he died in a taped interview with Italian journalist Benny Lai.  This took place on September 18, 1988.  Lai would later include a transcript of the recording as the final chapter (XVII) of his book about Siri, Il Papa non Eletto, or The Un-Elected Pope, which came out in 1993.


We at this website first read about this in a review by Lucio Brunelli that appeared in a 1993 issue of the Italian periodical 30 Days.  The revelation that Lai’s biography of Siri provides new details “about the secret affairs of the last conclave” naturally intrigued us.  So did the news that Siri says in his taped interview such things as “Masonic infiltrations in the Church? I’m sure of it.” Implying that he himself heard the tape, Brunelli says Siri also gave Lai names and addresses of high-ranking prelates whom he suspected of being secret Masons.


Although Lai, unfortunately for us, failed to include their actual names in his manuscript, just hearing about such “juicy” particulars was enough to make us obtain a copy of the book.  With the help of a native Italian who lives in our area, we even produced a translation of the all-important Chapter XVII that is included here.  During the 1990’s, and into the new century, we were actively engaged in the Siri research project, and eventually Gary Giuffré, who headed the effort, used an earlier form of our translation in writing a commentary on Chapter XVII.  Whereas this was shown to certain contacts of his, he never had it published — certainly not in the Sangre de Christo Newsnotes, as has been alleged elsewhere on the internet.


Recently we revised our English version of the Siri interview slightly with the help of yet another Italian translator.  For our readers’ convenience, a copy of the result is posted below in PDF format.  In reading this, do keep in mind that it is the transcript of a recording, not a carefully constructed essay.  As such, while somewhat disjointed and elliptical, as well as enigmatic, it also conveys a sense of spontaneity and immediacy, as it projects Siri’s thoughts on the problems faced by a newly-elected pope — but just any old pope? Does Siri have anyone in particular in mind when he says:

“A newly elected Pope — barring a miracle, and the Lord doesn’t do unnecessary miracles — what does he know, poor man, of the task awaiting him?  He has to be integrated into his new position.  The question which settles a pontificate is the choice of the Secretary of State, because it is he who must educate the Pope.


“Not all Popes become such after going through the school to become one.  The schooling, whether he wants it or not, occurs before the election, when the positions, suitability for the positions, and dedication to the positions, are well matched.”

Now, readers will realize this is not simply a commentary on the papacy in general if they note the sense of personal involvement, of frustration, as exemplified in the phrase, “… what does he know, poor man, of the task awaiting him?” While Siri speaks here in the third person, in the next paragraph he switches suddenly to the first, thus indicating the true subject of his discourse.  Indeed, the emotion in his voice intensifies, as he turns to the crucial matter at hand.  There is a sense of immediacy that cannot be denied:

“I say this because I have great remorse.   I have faith in the forgiveness of the Lord, and, therefore, I am at peace.   During the first two conclaves in which I participated, my candidature was presented by an influential cardinal.   He himself told me that all the French were behind him.   The others, then, followed the French.   The Germans held back, but gradually, along the way, joined the rest.   I said no, and if you elect me I will say no.   I have made a mistake, I understand it today.   Today?  For some years.   I did wrong, for I would have avoided completing certain actions.  .  .   I wish to say — but I am afraid to say it — making certain mistakes.   Therefore I have had great remorse and I have asked forgiveness of God.   I hope that God forgives me.”

This truly is amazing.  Towards the end of his life, a well-respected Prince of the Church prostrates himself before the public in an attitude of remorse!  Surely such humility is rare — or unheard of — among prelates in recent times.  John Paul II, of course, apologized a lot, but only for the supposed failings of others — or the Church as a whole –– not his own.  What in heaven’s name is going on here?  The reason for his remorse, his sense of guilt, obviously involves his role regarding the papacy — but why?  If the official version that he was never elected pope is correct, why should this bother him?


And how are we to interpret the details he gives us about the first two conclaves he participated in, those of 1958 and 1963?  While he doesn’t come out and say he was elected, those who know the politics of the situation might conclude just that.  How?  Well, in our opinion, the best candidate for the role of “influential cardinal” was the very liberal Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the College of Cardinals (and one of those Masonic infiltrators Siri alludes to elsewhere on the tape?).  Regardless, the French were perhaps the most radical of nationalities, with the Germans coming in a close second.


Siri, in contrast, was known as an arch-conservative; that is, he was utterly orthodox.


So what does it mean when Siri tells us that during the conclave the French fell in line behind their leader to vote for him, with the Germans finally giving way and joining the rest? There went his opposition!  Think about it.  Any man running for any office already has his allies’ votes; if his enemies gradually switch to his side, it’s in the bag, a done deal.  He’ll be a shoo-in!  Given the situation with all its ramifications, however, Siri is naturally skeptical.  Suspecting a set-up, he tells them to forget it, he won’t cooperate, saying that “if you elect me I will say no.”


But is this his final decision?  Or does he in fact later back down?  Other cardinals have been known to refuse the papal office at first, only finally to accept on a later ballot when the vote became overwhelming, as it seems to have been here.  To repeat, if the French and German cardinals, i.e.  the opposition, were voting for Siri, the total count in his favor must have been next to unanimous.  With that kind of pressure, how could he refuse, especially if his election is seen as the Will of God?


For the Holy Ghost, after all, is the One who ultimately chooses the pope.  The cardinals, assuming they follow the rules, simply act as his agents.  And even if in this instance a Masonic minority had ulterior motives, Siri could not dismiss the true and proper action of the Holy Ghost acting through the conclave as a whole, difficult as the situation had become.  Indeed, this might account for his comment at the beginning about “A newly elected Pope –– barring a miracle, and the Lord doesn’t do unnecessary miracles — what does he know, poor man, of the task awaiting him?”


Keeping all this in mind, let us now turn to the line where Siri speaks of the “schooling” to become a Pope.  Could he here be referring not so much to the worldly training the man receives, but to the mysterious action of the Holy Ghost in the soul of the one being prepared to become Christ’s Vicar on earth?  This “schooling,” Siri says, occurs “whether he wants it or not, before the election.”  The culmination of the “schooling,” of course, is the election itself, wherein the Will of the Holy Ghost is made manifest to all involved in the process.


Siri also notes, enigmatically, however, that “Not all Popes become such after going through the school to become one.”  What does this mean?  Could he be telling us that whereas duly prepared, and elected by the College of Cardinals, he still refused, even after the vote was unanimous?  Or is it more likely that after being voted in perhaps a second or third time, he finally accepted but could not take office because a coup d’etat engineered by prominent participants in the conclave prevented this?


We hear he did accept, taking the name of Gregory XVII, but that immediately one or more of the cardinals broke in to demand his withdrawal lest the Church’s enemies assassinate hundreds of bishops behind the Iron Curtain.  There was also talk of schism, and of atomic bomb attacks on the Vatican.  Elsewhere on tape Malachi Martin says Siri’s own family was threatened.  Other commentators, like Paul Williams, author of The Vatican Exposed, say Siri’s election was “annulled,” but it doesn’t take a canon lawyer to realize such a forcible act could in no way be legal.  Still others insist that Siri agreed to abdicate, but if in the confusion of the moment he thought he could do so validly, he would soon have realized otherwise.  According to Canon Law, a forced abdication by a pope is none at all, and the blackmail Siri faced certainly constituted force.


Whereas the results of such machinations might pass muster among men, would they satisfy the dictates of the Holy Ghost?  Would He accept a usurper, even if the man did occupy the papal throne for all the world to see?


How long did it take for the truth to sink in, i.e.  for Siri to realize that this was all a devious plot concocted not only by non-Catholics but also by the eminences running the conclave?  And why had they bothered electing him at all, if only to usurp his rightful authority?  What was their motive?  Did they actually intend to ensure the election of an impostor in the form of the jovial Roncalli who, as the Rev.  Charles-Roux has noted, implicated himself by taking the name of a former anti-pope, John XXIII, as his own?


Of course!  Their motive was simple, and diabolically clever.  By electing a true pope, then illegally thrusting him aside, all within the secrecy of the conclave, they could go on to engineer the election of a bona fide anti-pope.  Otherwise they could be certain that the Holy Ghost would get in the way, as He had been known to do before, transforming whatever weak man they might put forth as a candidate into a real pope.  This way, however, having already elected Siri, they could be sure Roncalli would not be so empowered.  Yes, they knew exactly what they were doing.  Lacking the divine guidance given a true pope, Roncalli would instead do their nefarious bidding.  Whereas a genuine pontiff would be infallibly protected against espousing heresy, or promoting the ruin of the Church, he would not.  Not knowing any better, however, the vast majority of Catholics would be fooled into thinking the man who occupied the papal throne was legitimate and do what he ordered.


After all, wasn’t he their very own Good Pope John?


But why did Siri not set them straight?  Why did he seem to say or do nothing in his own defense?  Why did he not hold his own press conference and inform the public what had happened?  In answering, we can only offer educated guesses.  For starters, the official channels by which a new pope communicated with the world outside the conclave were blocked.  All those in charge were in on the fix.  For him to contradict the official line would have been not only dangerous, but insane, in that the opposition would have declared him just that, assuming, of course, he lived long enough to speak his mind.  At the beginning of the interview with Benny Lai, Siri notes how a new pope must be integrated into his position with the help of a secretary-of-state.  But back in 1958, or ’63, would Siri have even been able to get one of these?  Would any cardinal, or bishop, have ventured to help him become “integrated” into his pontificate?  Was there anyone at all able to assist, or was he in effect neutralized, subjected to constant threats, surveillance and who knows what else?


For more clues as to his plight, let us turn briefly to a well circulated article by Louis Hubert Remy describing an interview that took place May 18, 1985, at Siri’s palace in Genoa.  What prompted this was an earlier incident recorded by Paul Scortesco, cousin to Prince Borghese, President of the 1963 conclave.  According to Scortesco, during that conclave Cardinal Tisserant left to meet with representatives of B’nai B’rith, and told them Siri had been elected!  They in turn said that for the new pope to continue as such would immediately precipitate another round of persecutions against the Church.


Seems they did not want Siri to be pope!  Or did they simply prefer to deal with an anti-pope instead?


During the 1985 interview at the Cardinal’s palace in Genoa, when Remy and his two companions, Francois Dallais and Monsieur de la Franquerie, asked Siri himself about the above incident, his response was precise and firm.  “No,” he said, “no one left the Conclave.”


Asked whether he had been elected pope, however, the Cardinal reacted quite differently…  After a long silence, he “raised his eyes to heaven” as though in pain and suffering.  Joining his hands, he said gravely: “I am bound by the secret.  This secret is horrible.  I would have books to write about the different conclaves.  Very serious things have taken place.  But I can say nothing.”


Remy thinks that “if he had not been elected pope, he would have said so” with the same sort of firm, categorical “No,” given the previous question.  He thus concludes that Siri had in fact been elected, but, feeling “bound by the secret”, “took refuge behind it.”  Indeed, Remy goes on to say that Siri told another one of his “trustworthy” friends that he had in fact been elected twice, once in 1963 and again in October of ’78.  Reportedly, the first time he had refused, the second time he “had been obliged to refuse” under pressure of schism!


As a follow up to the above story, the French newsletter, Introibo, ran in 1988 yet another testimony by Paul Scortesco, whose previous remarks, remember, had prompted Remy to ask Siri his all-important questions.  Scortesco stated: “In the case of John XXIII (1958) and of Paul VI (1963), there were communications with the outside.  It was thus known that there were several ballots in the first conclave which resulted in the election of Cardinal Tedeschini, and in the second, Cardinal Siri.”


Regarding this, let us add that we hear Tedeschini could very well have been elected in ’58, but after Siri’s election, since, being elderly (Siri was but 52), he was seen as a possible “transitional” figure.  His refusal to comply paved the way for Roncalli to assume that role.


Returning to the subject of the Benny Lai chapter, what should we conclude from all this?  What does it mean in context?  What exactly was that “secret” discussed earlier, the one by which Siri felt “bound”, and how did it affect his words and actions in general, including those during the interview with Lai?  While it is true that conclave participants have been sworn to secrecy, such irregularities as the election of an anti-pope would have invalidated the proceedings from then on.  Any oaths regarding them would have been rendered null and void.


Or could the “secret” relate to that of Fatima, which was as yet, and still has not been, released to the world?  According to our calculations, Siri was the rightful “Pope of 1960,” charged with revealing this.  How it might fit into the information we have here, however, is indeed puzzling.  We have no way of knowing, for instance, whether Siri was ever able to read this secret himself, much less pass it on to others.  Also, if Our Lady had charged him with making it known to the world, why would he feel “bound” by it?


If you think about it, the most prevalent kind of “secret” binding a cleric forever would have to be that involving the sacrament of Penance.  Which makes us wonder: could one or more of the guilty cardinals have approached Siri for such a purpose early on and revealed the entire plot to him under the seal of the confessional?  Was this cleverly calculated to achieve the desired results?  Could such a move on their parts have served to paralyze any future efforts of Siri’s to explain or defend his own position?


How could he function as pope anyway, when his pontificate had been hijacked?  From the beginning, all those officially in control were in on the fix.  Starting with his first conclave, that of 1958, they controlled the channels to the outside.  The whole world believed Roncalli to be pope.  What chance had Siri to convince the public otherwise?  If his secret allies among the cardinals hoped to rectify the situation, they might have figured their safest course would be to wait until the next conclave.  And, from what we hear, they did succeed in electing him in 1963 — but the result was “annulled” again.  And again in 1978 — twice then, in fact.


As for the second conclave occurring that year, Siri addresses it further on towards the end of his interview with Benny Lai.  There is a note of strain, of weariness, in his voice, as he says:


“In both of these last two conclaves, my name was put forward, but I didn’t make the same statement as the other times.  I told myself: I can’t do it.  What will be will be.  I have gotten out of it well enough anyway, but at the last conclave, I think, Wyszynski paid a visit to my secretary, telling him: “It is done; you will be the secretary of the Pope.”


“I went into the conclave in a state of agony.  I remember that I went to sit in a chair at the back of the Pauline Chapel as one torn.  I was in a state of agony.  God rescued me.  How?  Yes, a cardinal came to tell me what had happened.  I can not speak of it.  But, believe me .  .  .  I have seen clearly the course of history over these long years; very clearly.  I also think I have had the proper vision to see it.  I wore glasses, but I saw it well.  Now I desire to leave this world without disturbing history, and, therefore, let others do that which, in conscience, they believe.  I ask only that lies are not told, and that is enough.”


Aha!  Here he implies that at the last two conclaves he did not at first say no to being nominated for the papal office.  If he had vacillated before, it seems he would now try to rectify the situation.  Did this new sense of purpose mean he had decided the charade should continue no longer? Let us also note that at the last one, he says the revered primate of Poland did not back his own fellow Pole, the same cardinal who would emerge as John Paul II!  This certainly is important news.  Moreover, by quoting Wyszynski’s words “It is done; you will be the secretary of the Pope,” Siri is letting us know that he was in fact elected that time, too.  The Polish cardinal apparently thought this time the world at large would finally know the truth, that the true pontiff would emerge triumphant from the conclave.  This way Siri’s own secretary would enjoy the status of being that to the pope.


But this did not happen as Wyszynski thought it would.


Siri says that, having the “proper vision,” he has seen, i.e.  understood, what has happened over the years.  Earlier in the interview he also tells us that he has remorse for his past actions and is sure God will forgive him.  For what and exactly how he doesn’t say, only that, in retrospect, he would have avoided doing certain things, i.e.  making certain mistakes.  Being the best of theologians, he also knows that forgiveness requires rectitude, a change of heart and way of behaving.  So what is he doing now that he did not formerly?  For one thing, he is making this tape, addressing an audience he senses must be out there ready to listen — and read.  But act?  Who out there was willing and able to do anything to help him in his dilemma?


To answer these questions we need to consider what had occurred earlier that year of the interview, i.e.  during the spring of 1988.  Researchers in Texas headed by Gary Giuffré, determined to track down the true pope, had sent a Vietnamese priest (and refugee), Fr. Peter Tran Van Khoat, on a mission to Italy in search of Cardinal Siri.  Unable to find him in Genoa, Fr. Khoat, assisted by friends and other Vietnamese Catholics, managed to locate him in Rome at a convent where he was saying Mass.  Under the pretext of needing a signature from Siri, Fr. Khoat managed to meet with the object of his search for about five minutes.  What transpired was later related by the priest personally to Jim Condit Jr., who passed most of it on to us years ago over the telephone.  An account of his conversation with Fr. Khoat is also posted, as part of a longer article, several places on the internet.


According to this, Fr. Khoat asked Siri the big question “Are you the Pope?” at least twice, only to get a negative answer.  Finally, the Vietnamese priest really laid it on: he told Siri that if he had consecrated Russia to Our Lady as requested at Fatima, his bishop would not have been killed and his country would not have fallen to the Communists.


Now Siri appeared stricken to the point of tearing up.

At this point Fr. Khoat became even more explicit.  “You are the Pope, not de facto, but de jure (i.e.  he was the lawful Pope, but did not in fact rule from the Vatican).”


“You already know it,” Siri said.


(Let us note here that when this writer first heard those words articulated by Condit over the telephone, what came to mind was the scene during the Passion when Pilate asked Christ, Who was at that point bound and crowned with thorns, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Siri’s own answer seemed an echo of Our Lord’s response as recorded in the gospels: “Thou sayest it.”)


Next Fr. Khoat told Siri to come with him immediately, that he had plane tickets for him to go to America, where people were waiting to help him.  But Siri said that would be impossible.  He could not go, because “they” could –– and would — kill him at any time.  Instead he told the Vietnamese to return at 8 p.m.  that evening when his secretary would be gone.  Reportedly Fr. Khoat did just that.  He also visited Siri yet a third time, when he brought along a fellow priest, Msgr. Carlo Taramasso, an Italian who had also worked for some time in the U.S.


Whereas Fr. Khoat would return to his Vietnamese flock in America, Msgr. Taramasso would linger in Italy within reach of Siri.  In March of the following year, 1989, however, after being visited by Cardinal Casaroli, a high-ranking prelate accused of being a Freemason, he died mysteriously.  Not long afterwards, Gary Giuffré, having traveled to Italy, spoke with the deceased’s sister, a physician who, it is interesting to note, did not think her brother passed away from natural causes.


At the time of the Benny Lai interview, however, Msgr. Taramasso was still alive and well, and apparently in touch with Siri.  Indeed, in an unpublished commentary on the interview that is posted (without the author’s permission) on the web, Gary Giuffré calls the monsignor Siri’s “chief confidant and advisor.”  This is also significant in discussing the Lai tape if we reconsider Siri’s words about the importance of a pope’s secretary of state.  Whereas back in 1958, or ’63, or even ’78, he may not have known anyone who might fill that role, is it possible he saw in Msgr. Taramasso a likely prospect, i.e.  one willing to help him, as he put it, to complete his pontificate?


Another intriguing thought is that the interview with Benny Lai might represent a new approach, that Siri, knowing now that he had some form of support as far away as the United States, intended that his words would in fact reach that broader audience.  This would explain why he so openly expressed his feelings of remorse, along with the certainty that God would forgive him.  He apparently was appealing to his followers, hoping they would understand.


What he did not know at that time in September of 1988, however, was that Msgr. Taramasso would soon be gone, and that he himself would meet his Maker less than two months after that, on May 2, 1989.  Whether their departures were entirely free of human intervention is obviously debatable.  If Siri was helped along, it would, ironically, justify his fears as expressed to Fr. Khoat in Rome the previous year.  Should he try to escape, “they” would kill him, he had said.  Consequently, from beyond the grave, his words come to us now with a renewed sense of urgency, conjuring up the specter of what did probably occur and what might have been.  And, God willing, what possibilities still remain for us survivors.

Copyright 2006 by Judith Gordon.


Click here to access a PDF copy of the original Italian version of Chapter XVII from Benny Lai's book “Il Papa non Eletto”, or “The Un-Elected Pope”.


Click here to access a PDF copy of our translation of this very short, but very important Chapter XVII of the book “The Un-Elected Pope”.


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