San Francisco Chronicle
October 4, 1978 - Front page
A full investigation into the "true causes" of Pope John Paul's death was demanded yesterday by a conservative Roman Catholic group.
The demand by the traditionalist Civilta Cristiana came only hours before John Paul's body was scheduled to be sealed in the three coffins in which he will be entombed after an outdoor funeral in St. Peter's square today.
Major Italian newspapers, led by the prestigious Corriere della Sera, have been running front page articles since Sunday questioning the Vatican's decision not to conduct an autopsy.
The Vatican has said medical procedures such as autopsies were not foreseen in a 1975 document regulating papal transitions and therefore would not be performed on John Paul's body.
The pope died in bed Thursday night, apparently of a massive heart attack, at the age of 65.
Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York said he could understand the suspicion of some people "but we're past the point of autopsies."
"Certainly people are free to discuss the issue," Cooke said. "I can understand that these matters would be discussed. I can understand that some people might feel uneasy because his death was so sudden. But heart attacks or strokes are killers all over the world."
Cardinal Silvio Oddi said he was certain the College of Cardinals "will not hold even a minimum investigation and will not even discuss the argument."
"We know with complete certainty that the death of John Paul was caused by the fact that his heart stopped beating from causes completely natural," Oddi said.
Pope John Paul's physician said he told the pontiff a few days before his death that he could not continue such a strenuous pace.
Dr. Antonio da Ros, the pope's physician when John Paul was Cardinal Albino Luciani, patriarch of Venice, said in a telephone interview that the burden of the pontificate and the sensitivity of the pope were possible contributing factors to the heart attack.
"I met him at the Vatican a few days before his death," da Ros said. "His health was fairly good, but the stress of his new post was great. He perhaps was not prepared, accustomed to that responsibility.
"I told him he could not continue at that pace and he replied he could not do anything about it.
"In the 34 days of his pontificate, the pace of his activities was very intense. It would be enough to check his schedule since he was elected pope. This, joined the peculiar sensitiveness of Albino Luciani can have been contributing factors for his death."
The Corriere, della Sera, which started controversy Sunday with an editorial titled "Why No Autopsy?", took its case a bit further yesterday.
The daily noted that Chinese Cardinal Yu Pin collapsed during Pope Paul VI's funeral and died a few days later and that the Metropolitan Nikodem of Leningrad died less than a month ago during a private audience with Pope John Paul.
"A Russian, a Chinese and then the pope himself," the paper said. "Coincidences. But never in recent times have there been so many deaths of such a sudden nature and so close together in the Vatican.
"Suspicion is flowing through Rome, already so full of suspicions, and is entering the Vatican: not even the throne of St. Peter is safe."