Pope helps shed light on notorious murder in Italy

Pope Francis is breaking decades of Vatican silence to help Italy shed light on one of its most notorious crimes, the 1970's murder of former premier Aldo Moro, a leading daily said Saturday.

Pope helps shed light on notorious murder in Italy

Francis has given permission for Archbishop Antonio Mennini to be interviewed by a parliamentary commission, 37 years after Moro was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades, a leftist Italian militant group, the Corriere della Sera has reported.

Mennini is reported to have heard Moro's final confession and served as a go-between between the militants and Pope Paul VI, who is believed to have attempted to buy the former prime minister's release.

Francesco Cossiga, president of Italy from 1985 to 1992, confessed before he died that "Mennini managed to reach Aldo Moro in the Red Brigades' den and we did not find out about it," the Italian daily said.

The Holy See's ambassador to Britain, Mennini has been shielded from prior investigations due to diplomatic immunity, but on Monday will go before the new commission investigating the murder, it said.

The Vatican would neither confirm nor deny the report.

The pope, who has promised greater transparency from an institution famed for secrecy, may be hoping not only to throw light on an event that scarred the national psyche but highlight the Vatican's bid to save Moro.

The Red Brigades abducted the Christian Democrat on March 16, 1978, killing his five bodyguards.

Paul VI made a personal appeal to the kidnappers on April 23, saying "I pray to you on my knees, liberate Aldo Moro," but the latter was found dead in the boot of a car in a Rome backstreet after two months in captivity.

Fabio Fabbri, ex deputy-head of Italy's prison chaplains, in 2012 told a trial investigating alleged dealings between the state and the mafia that he had seen the pope with "a mountain of money… ready to ransom Aldo Moro."

Giuseppe Fioroni, head of the parliamentary commission into Moro's death, holds high hopes of Mennini's testimony, describing him as "the man closest spiritually to Aldo Moro," the Corriere said.

"There are so many points he will be able to address: his role, his contacts, the enormous effort made by Paul VI to launch negotiations to restore an alive Moro to his country and family, and why this effort was unsuccessful," he said.

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Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.