Your humble author recently was told by a Catholic journalist that Vatican Communications director Joaquin Navarro Valls and thus Opus Dei basically ran the Vatican (or at least parts of it) the last 10 years of John Paul II’s life. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical. However, I found something very interesting regarding this topic in John Allen’s 2006 The Rise of Benedict XVI.
The first thing is that John Paul had been, in Allen’s words, “dying for years.” Secondly, that there were accusations that Navarro Valls exaggerated the status of John Paul II’s health–especially at the very end of John Paul’s life–making it seem that JPII was healthier than he actually was.
Allen even tries to dispel rumors among Italians that Navarro Valls (or someone else) used a tape recording of John Paul II during a “staged” Angelus appearance during the last months of John Paul’s life–Allen admits that there is some evidence to support that a tape recording was used.
All of this material (and more) raises some interesting questions.
How much of John Paul II’s life was staged and shaped by himself and others in and out of the Vatican?
How much power did Navarro Valls really have (remember it was Navarro Valls who helped George Weigel plot Witness to Hope)?