“Spies in the Pope’s Quarters”. How the KGB and CIA gripped the Vatican

Nikita Bizin

The espionage passions around the Vatican are still a mystery to researchers of the Cold War. However, archives recently declassified by Lithuania shed light on some important details. It turns out that the Holy See was under the hood of Soviet intelligence for many years. About the most daring special operations in the heart of the Catholic Church – in the material of RIA Novosti.

Forge of personnel

When Hitler’s Germany almost completely occupied Europe, the USSR sought contacts with the leaders of the Nazi government to find out their future plans. Everyone understood that war was inevitable. But when will it start? The Kremlin pinned great hopes on the special services.

It was difficult to deploy a full-fledged agent network. However, a solution was found: in March 1940, the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR, Alexander Guzevichyus, received a letter with the stamp ” top secret ” signed by Lavrentiy Beria.

“The NKVD of the USSR proposes: using the data of agents, to outline several figures from among the priests and authorities of the Catholic Church for recruiting large agents that can reveal the connections of the leading figures of the Catholic Church with foreign intelligence services (especially the German one), as well as intercept communications to the Vatican and infiltrate agents”, – said in the document.

There was no other information in the directive. Only the signature: “To report on the results of the work and the planned measures by January 30, 1941”. This message is indirect evidence that the Soviet state security organs were recruiting Catholics already in the late 1930s. As history will show, this forge of personnel turned out to be very effective. But Beria’s idea will bring the main fruits several decades later.


After the Great Patriotic War, the Vatican faded into the background for the USSR. Only in the early 1960s did the “religious trend” become relevant again. Then the pontiff was John XXIII, nicknamed the “red pope” for his sympathy for the communists. It was he who established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. He also acted as an intermediary between Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

According to historians, then scouts from the Warsaw Pact states rushed to the Vatican – primarily agents of the German Stasi. They mostly just watched the inner kitchen of the Holy See. And they tried to introduce into the curia as many cardinals from the countries of the socialist camp as possible.

And so it happened. Only with the opposite effect. In 1978, the throne was taken by the Pole Karol Wojtyla, taking the name John Paul II. And he openly opposed communist ideology.

“To use all means to op-pose the new political cour-se launched by the Polish pope,” said the directive of the CPSU Central Committee for the KGB of November 13, 1979.

For this, the spies recruited supporters. In a telegram sent from Vilnius to Moscow in the mid-1980s, it was reported that “an agent, one of the high-ranking representatives of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, is going to the Vatican, where during his visit he will have a number of meetings with Pope John Paul II, Secretary of State A. Kazaroli and others”.

Cardinal Casaroli was close to the pontiff. Therefore, through him, they easily influenced the decisions of the pope. The involvement of Casaroli – the third most important person in the Catholic Church – in the Soviet agents was discovered by chance. The nun, wiping the dust in the secretary of state’s chambers, inadvertently brushed away the statue of the Madonna of Fatima. An object that resembled a button fell out of the cracked porcelain Our Lady. It turned out to be a wiretapping device.

Later, the Italian special services reported that the bug was the result of a successful KGB special operation. And the wife of the cardinal’s nephew carried him into the chambers.

The spy in the daddy’s chambers

However, Casaroli is not the only high-profile priest who worked for Soviet in-telligence. Another valua-ble source of information is Benedictine Eugen Bram-mertz, who is close to the Secretary of State. He, as follows from the memoirs of CIA veteran John Keller, was recruited back in 1945 in a prisoner of war camp.

In the years that followed, the humble German monk made a dizzying career in the Church, and in the late 1970s became a member of the Pontifical Commission for Science and an unofficial adviser to Casaroli. From that moment until his death in 1987, Brammertz followed the cardinal. And through him – for the Pope.

Another important agent in the Vatican was the monk Stanislav Heimo. He was recruited by the Polish security service almost immediately after the election of John Paul II, with whom he studied at the University of Krakow.

According to John Keller, Heimo became so close to the ruler that he freely entered his chambers. After the death of the pontiff in 2005, the monk was accused of working for the Soviet special services. However, Heimo did not even think to dispute this. He only asserted that he passed information only from open sources to Polish intelligence officers “for good intentions”.

The goals of the agents

Since the early 1990s, when it became known about major special operations of Soviet spies in the Vatican, the Western press trumpeted in unison: the Kremlin wanted to kill the popular pontiff. However, the archives of the Lithua-nian KGB testify to the opposite.

So, in the report of the head of the First Department of the KGB of the Lithuanian USSR Vytautas Karinauskas “On the impending active measures” in December 1988, it is said that the agents should “draw the attention of the Vatican leadership to the need for more decisive actions of Christians for the preservation of life and peace on earth, against the nuclear threat, in favor of supporting the disarmament process, for preventing the transfer of the arms race to outer space, as well as for the early settlement of regional conflicts, including the Afghan problem… “

“It is planned to inform the Vatican that if the dialogue between East and West does not lead to tangible positive results in the near future,” the head of the special service emphasized, “the process of democratization of Soviet society may slow down, which will deal an irreparable blow to the activities of the Est-onian people’s fronts and Latvia… and will cause a reduction in the ties of representatives of these organizations with compatriots, in particular in Italy. “

It is possible that the agents acted precisely through Heimo. In any case, Pope John Paul II, in his meetings with Western leaders, indeed repeatedly repeated the above.

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