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from issue no. 10 - 2008

The long night of ‘78


A book on the last, tormented, part of Montini’s pontificate and on the kidnapping and killing of Senator Aldo Moro. A work of fantasy, but worthy of note


by Davide Malacaria


Paul VI receiving in audience Aldo Moro, President of the Council of Ministers, 20 January 1964

Paul VI receiving in audience Aldo Moro, President of the Council of Ministers, 20 January 1964

Many re-evocations, in the course of thirty years, of the tragedy of which Aldo Moro was a victim in that terrible 1978, through interviews, articles and books. The volume Adesso viene la notte (Now comes the night) by Ferruccio Parazzoli, does not come out of an analysis of the writings that Moro produced in the Red Brigades’ prison nor from a careful study of the phenomenon of “terrorism” but has something nonetheless that urges one to read it. Conceived as a play, it takes as its starting point what happened in those terrible fifty-five days in an attempt to imagine the torment that consumed the last months of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI. Thus, in the hands of the author, the assassination of the statesman’s escort, his abduction and his murder became one of the many, stubborn challenges posed by Satan to God, aimed at lessening the faith of the Holy Father.
In advancing his challenge, Satan debates with God on the evils that afflict the world, the vacuum gripping the hearts of men. The cause of all this, the devil explains, is not so much “losing God”, his remoteness from human affairs, rather “it is the failed coming of the Kingdom of God that brings about the total loss of all meaning”, so that all “expectation” fades, everything becomes anonymous, indifferent and “the act of torturing and that of lovingly tending become increasingly indistinguishable”.
That Paul VI had well in mind the dangers arising from the activity of the devil is well known. The author reports the speech given on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 1972 – four years after the pronouncement full of hope of the Creed of the People of God – when the Holy Father then said: “I have the feeling that the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God through some crack”. Parazzoli imagines that this complaint intersects with an inner torment that the Pope would suffer at the hands of the father of lies, those external obsessions of which Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was victim in reality. Harassments that did not however tarnish the faith of the Holy Father. It was then that the idea of the great challenge was born in the devil. Paul VI would undergo the supreme temptation: the Kingdom of God here on earth, is mere abstraction; the Lord is deaf to the prayers of men. Hence the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. “The tireless work of the devil is not directed against me, I am nothing, just a pawn in the game”, the statesman says to Paul VI in one of those spectral apparitions that the author imagines tormented Montini in the terrible days of the kidnapping. So also the other politicians, in the story, are nothing more than background, the scenery of the theater in which this sulfurous drama is consumated.
The only real character in this drama, apart from Montini, is a militant in the Red Brigade movement, whom the author imagines reaching Montini to set up negotiations for the release of the hostage. An attempt that founders tragically, however, when a breathless Don Macchi reports back to the Holy Father the news that the girl’s body has been found in a frozen lake. A reference to what really happened in those terrible days: the mystery of the Red Brigade communiqué which announced the death of Moro (it was 18 April 1978, the thirtieth anniversary of the historic victory of the Christian Democrats in the first elections held in Italy after the Second World War) and his concealment in the depths of Lake Duchessa. A communiqué that then turned out to be the work of a strange forger, a certain Tony Chicchiarelli, but that is another story.
Paul VI presiding at the funeral mass for Aldo Moro in the Basilica of
Saint John Lateran, 13 May 1978

Paul VI presiding at the funeral mass for Aldo Moro in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, 13 May 1978

The bleak epilogue to the kidnapping marks the apparent victory of Satan. The Pope seems to capitulate and, like Jesus repeats: “Eloì Eloì, lemà sabachtàni?”, meaning “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even more dramatic are the words of the homily pronounced at the statesman’s funeral when, according to the author, Montini seems to blame God: “You did not heed our plea for the life of Aldo Moro”. And yet, and despite everything, the devil’s challenge fails. Paul VI, God says, died in the faith. To the faithful servant a peaceful death is reserved, coinciding with the ringing of an alarm, “a maternal reminder, as mothers call their children at the end of the day. It is time, come on, come home”. A serenity that contrasts however with the last words that the author puts into the mouth of the dying Pope, almost a last legacy of his mortal life: “Now comes the night”.
It is very difficult to see in the features of the God of this book the sweet face of the Christian God, or to match the record of what really happened in 1978 with the obsessive sulfurous nightmare sketched by Parazzoli. But certainly the similarity between the Red Brigade badge and the Pentacle used in satanic rites will have intrigued the devil, who certainly had a hand in what happened in that tragic year.
“Thy Kingdom come ... on earth as in heaven”, Jesus taught us to ask. And the challenge of the devil, finally, lies entirely there.


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