INTELLIGENCE services intervened in the 1963 conclave, which elected Paul VI, to block another leading candidate who was suspected of being a 52 security risk, it was claimed this week.
According to a report in Rome, the cardinal who almost became pope after John XXIII was the Armenian-born Italian, Gregory Peter Agagianian. In the days before the conclave opened. the reports said, speculation heightened that Cardinal Agagianian's had a growing lobby of support in the College of Cardinals.
But just before the conclave opened, packages of documents and photograph were "circulated" among the cardinals, showing Agagianian's sister, Elizabeth, in the company of an attaché at the Soviet Embassy to Italy in Rome.
It was later discovered, according to the Italian religious affairs monthly, 30 Days, that Italy's military intelligence, SIFAR, had been monitoring the woman's movements, suspecting her of being a KGB spy.
Though the allegation has never been proved, it resulted in a rapid Ilh-hour transfer of support from Cardinal Agagianian to the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini -who went down in history as Paul VI.