How Italian Prime Minister saved the Pope from paparazzi

Recently discovered writings of the former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti reveal how he saved Pope John Paul II from privacy violations.

According to journals kept by Andreotti, on August 14, 1980 he was contacted by the Vatican Secretary of State, who asked for his help in a problem that could not be discussed over the phone. Andreotti, who had previously served as the Prime Minister, but had no government function at the time and was on vacation in the Alps, was visited personally by an archbishop who explained the problem to him.

Paparazzi had sneaked into the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo and taken photos of Pope John Paul II in just his swim briefs and were offering them to newspapers for quite a large sum. August 14 was also the day the strikes that gave rise to the Solidarity movement began. There were concerns that the communist regime would use the photos for propaganda purposes.

In order to stop the publication of these images, Andreotti spent the next few weeks talking to newspaper editors, making sure they wouldn't publish the photos. “The situation in Poland obliges us to intervene, not allowing the publishing of these photos,” said one of the editors to Andreotti. “Just think of the Polish television,” added another.

The story comes from 180 notebooks and journals kept by Andreotti between 1944-2009, which were found and published by his children. Andreotti served as the Italian Prime Minister multiple times, as well as a minister in many key ministries.