Pope who 'betrayed' Church moved out of grave to make room for John Paul II
remains: Vatican denies it is downgrading Innocent XI as punishment
The removal of the remains of a 17th-century Pope to make room for John Paul II -- who will be beatified on May 1 -- has prompted claims of a Vatican plot to punish the former's financial support for the Protestant King William of Orange.
The body of Blessed Pope Innocent XI, whose family is alleged to have helped to bankroll the campaign of the Dutch-born 'King Billy' to take the English throne, has been taken out of the Chapel of St Sebastian, near the entrance to St Peter's basilica in Rome.
The remains of John Paul II will be placed in the chapel instead, after the Polish pontiff is beatified, also becoming a 'Blessed', a mere six years after his death.
The Chapel of St Sebastian sits in the alcove adjoining one of St Peter's most popular attractions, Michelangelo's statue of the Pieta.
The Vatican has denied that it is giving John Paul II preferential treatment.
Innocent XI's crystal casket was transferred, in a simple ceremony, after St Peter's closed its doors on April 7. Innocent XI, who was Pope from 1676 till his death in 1689, is considered a hero of the Christian struggle against Islam because of his role in defending Europe against the Ottoman Turks during their second siege of Vienna in 1683.
He was beatified in 1956 when the Soviet Union invaded Budapest. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks there was renewed talk of promoting him to Sainthood.
His reputation took a battering, however, when a husband-and-wife team of Italian novelists gained access to archives showing that his rich Odescalchi banking family helped to finance William of Orange. Francesco Sorti and Rita Monaldi wrote a 2002 historical thriller titled Imprimatur based on the documents that they discovered in the Rome state archives.
They maintain that the Odescalchis in effect financed the overthrow of England's last Catholic monarch, James II, by William of Orange in the 'Glorious Revolution' in 1688. A sum of 173,000 scudi -- equal to the Vatican's annual deficit -- was loaned to William in the 1660s through intermediaries in Venice. When Innocent XI became Pope, the couple said, he favoured William against the Catholic 'Sun King' of France, Louis XIV, because he wanted to get his money back. The loans helped William to invade England, forcing James II to flee to France.
"Because of our book Innocent XI has lost his reputation of sanctity," Mr Sorti said. "He betrayed the Catholic Church." Mr Sorti is convinced that Innocent XI is being quietly downgraded as a result even though this year marks the celebration of 400 years from his birth. "It has never happened before that the body of a Pope has been removed to make way for another Pope, especially when both have been beatified," he said. "And especially because this year is the 400th centenary of his birth. He was supposed to be celebrated, not removed."
Innocent XI's remains have been moved farther into the basilica.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, denied that the Vatican was downgrading Innocent XI. "In seeking a place for the body of John Paul II we thought that the Chapel of Saint Sebastian is closer to the entrance for the many pilgrims who are likely to come," he said.