The Internet is awash with a host of Byzantine conspiracy theories concerning Freemasonry. The legitimacy of these claims varies widely and an individual can easily dedicate a considerable amount of time (and money) researching claims that are utterly baseless. And the diligent research will come to find that many of these claims are baseless or at least highly embellished, be assured. An overview of the vast litany of material claiming to reveal the nefarious aims of Freemasonry is well beyond the scope of this blog --indeed, several books could be written on this subject.
While the subject at hand --the notorious Propaganda Due lodge (generally referred to as P2) of Italy --is certainly a staple of Masonic conspiracy literature, much of said literature is of little value in understanding the true aims and masters of P2. P2 was many things, but a conventional Masonic lodge it was not. It has been described as a parallel or shadow government of Italy and during its heyday there was much merit to this claim. But P2's activities were not restricted to Italy --it was an international organization with branches all across Europe and the Americas. And its contacts were impeccable --the intelligence services of the US, USSR and various other European governments as well as various politicians and organized crime figures spanning either Bloc.
|the so-called "Black Friars" of P2|
Gelli became involved with deep intrigues at a very young age.
"... At the age of seventeen, Gelli enrolled as a volunteer in the 735th Black Shirts Battalion and went to fight in Spain, where his brother Raffaele was killed at Malaga in April 1938. After returning to Italy Gelli enlisted in an infantry regiment in 1940. A year later he volunteered to join the parachute regiment but was invalided out after an accident in training. In 1942 he was sent to the small port of Cattaro in Yugoslavia as a aide-de-camp to a Fascist Party official. There he is reported to work for SIM, the wartime secret service, and come into contact with representatives of the British and Soviet secret services. At the time the Italians were holding the Yugoslav nation gold reserves in the town before transporting them to Rome and were warding off attempts by the British, Germans and Yugoslav Resistance to 'liberate' the gold. The fact is sometimes cited as a possible explanation for Gelli's subsequent wealth. His boss, Piero Parini, was reportedly involved in putting out secret feelers on behalf of Mussolini to both Soviet and Western representatives. If Gelli was involved in these negotiations it may have given him his first opportunity to enter into contact with secret services from both sides of the future Iron Curtain.
"In 1943 he returned to Italy to become liaison officer for the German forces in his home town of Pistoia, with the rank of sergeant-major in the Herman Goring Division of the German SS. It was during the closing stages of the war that he began to show the talent for deviousness and double-dealing for which he would later be renowned and which would make it so difficult to identify him and his true political colours. Overtly committed to the fascist Salo regime but facing the certainty of an imminent Allied victory, Gelli had to resolve a further dilemma: with which partisan camp should he throw in his lot? Given hostility between the Communists and the other anti-fascist forces, having collaborated with one group would not necessarily guarantee protection from the other. As a natural survivor, Gelli appears to have hedged his bets. His biographers cite descriptions of him as a ferocious torturer of Italian partisans and deserters. But other accounts have him leading German troops on fruitless searches of the Italian countryside having first tipped off the Resistance about their plans."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pgs. 50-51)
|Gelli during his youth|
"Gelli's agreement to continue to spy for the Communists after the war was instrumental in saving his life when he faced an anti-Fascist commission sitting in Florence. The evidence that he had tortured and murdered patriots was deemed, after discrete intervention by the Communists, to be insufficient...
"... Gelli also continued spying for the Communists until 1956. The termination of his espionage work for the Communist coincided with the commencement of his work for the Italian secret services. Part of the fee for spying on his own country was the closure of the file the secret service had on him. This occurred in 1956..."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pg. 103)This was not, however, the end of Gelli's relations with the Eastern Bloc. His business ties with those behind the Iron Curtain would continue well into the 1970s.
"This did not preclude him from engaging in profitable trading relations with Romania while, according to one report, P2 members in the finance police turned a blind eye to customs irregularities. Gelli's involvement in the clothes and textile trade with Romania in the 1970s is frequently cited by those who claimed he was in East Bloc agent. Given the independent foreign policy line pursued by President Nikolai Ceausecu and the favor, including an English knighthood, that it won him in the West, the argument is not entirely convincing. The Italian secret service can hardly expect to be believed when it generates a report describing Gelli as a potential communists 'sleeper' at a time when he is on intimate terms with the heads of the service, who also happen to belong to his masonic lodge..."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pg. 56)
|Nikolai Ceausecu, the last Communist president of Romania, whose brutal secret services (Securitate) were heavily staffed with "former" members of the fascist Iron Guard whom (like GellI) had numerous dealings in Latin America during the Cold War|
In addition to the Soviets, Gelli was making other intelligence ties during this period as well. In addition to the contacts Gelli had in the Italian secret services during the War, he also established ties to those of the United States and the Vatican towards the end of the conflict as well. This paved the way for a rather lucrative trade Gelli partook in after the WWII ended.
"Additional wealth came from Gelli's involvement in operating the Vatican 'ratlines' with Father Krujoslav Dragonovic. Gelli's fee was 40% of the total cash on hand from each fleeing 'rat.' This demand, coupled with the Vatican's take of 40 to 50%, left the Nazis penniless when they arrived in Argentina and other neutral countries. One of the most notable rats helped by Gelli was Klaus Barbie, the 'Butcher of Lyons.' The Vatican sheltered the Gestapo chief for several months before placing him under the care of Gelli. Barbie was not obliged to pay the Vatican or Gelli. The cost was borne by the United States Counterintelligence Corps that kept Barbie in its employee until 1951."
(The Vatican Exposed, Paul L. Williams, pg. 112)
Also during World War II Gelli seems to have made contact with the founder of another secret organization that crops up time and again in the saga of P2. The individual in question was Josemaria Escriva and the secret society was Opus Dei. Reportedly the ties Gelli developed with either were quite beneficial, especially during Gelli's years aiding the "Ratlines."
"In the late thirties, Licio Gelli – an officer in Mussolini's black shirts who had once served as an intelligence officer under Hitler – was sent to Spain to support Franco's insurrection of the Spanish people. Escriva and Gelli quickly struck up an enduring relationship.
"Escriva and Gelli were at his side when Franco came to power in 1939. Opus Dei quickly infiltrated Franco's cabinet and brought about ruthless suppression of the Spanish people – the clandestine cult providing the ideology and Franco providing the executioners. Together they murdered more than a million innocent people...
"Gelli's Rat Line funneled Nazis to South America. Though Gelli gets the historical credit because he headed it up, the Rat Line was an Opus Dei scheme of which Gelli was an operations officer.
"In 1946, Escriva and Gelli enlisted Carlos Fuldner into the ranks of Opus Dei. Fuldner had been an officer in Hitler's SSGuard and an old friend of Escriva, the reason why Escriva was able to make his remark in 1941 'Hitler will take care of the Jews...' Only the SS Guard knew what was going on in the death camps at that time.
"Gelli and Fuldner ran rescue efforts from Madrid to Argentina for Nazi war criminal seeking refuge. Among those rescued were Adolf Eichmann and Joseph Mengele though there are conflicting reports the latter may have escaped through the Pius XII Rat Line – a network of monasteries from Poland to Naples to South America."
(Murder in the Vatican, Lucien Gregoire, pgs. 128)
|Opus Dei founder Escriva|
By the mid 1950s Gelli found himself in exile in Argentina where he began establishing even more contacts.
"... earlier he had followed the same path on which he had sent some many members of the Third Reich to South America, aligning himself with extreme right-wing elements in Argentina, where he became a close friend and confidant of General Juan Peron. When Peron was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, Gelli experienced one of his few failures in attempting to intercede with the Vatican. Peron's anti-clerical campaign, which had led to his excommunication, weighed more heavily with the Church than Gelli's assurances that the General was a greatly misunderstood genius. When Peron left the country after a military coup in 1956, Licio Gelli promptly set about befriending the incoming junta. Slowly and carefully Gelli set about building a power base that began to stretch through much of South America. It was always the rich and powerful, or the potentially rich and powerful whom Gelli courted..."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 103-104)
"... the CIA shopfront Permindex [Permanent Industrial Expositions] was incorporated in Basel with Nagy as president in 1956, on the eve of the Hungarian uprising. Nagy was also director of the World Trade Centre (aka CMC or Centro Mondiale Commerciale) in Rome, and president of its American board. Both outfits were conduits for the CIA's covert worldwide commercial activities, including arms and drug trafficking, white-washing money, lubricating extremist organizations close to Gladio and running deals with European gangsters. Permindex had an offshoot in Italy, where P2's puppet master Licio Gelli sat on the board. New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, arrested and questioned in connection with the JFK assassination, was for a time on the Permindex American board. These companies had the curious distinction of seeming very well oiled, while never actually engaging in any visible commercial transactions..."
(Gladio: NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe, Richard Cottrell, pgs. 141-142)
Now that many of the highlights of Gelli's pre-P2 days have been outlined I can move on to that particular era. Let us briefly start by outlining the circumstances Freemasonry in Italy found itself in at the time Gelli signed up. Freemasonry has a reach history in Italy dating back to at least the eighteenth century. Reportedly the nation's first lodge was founded by an Englishman known as Lord Charles Sackville in Florence some time around 1732. It reached possibly its greatest prominence in the nineteenth century when it played a role in the Risorgimento and was professed by noted statesmen such as Giuseppe Garibaldi.
|noted Italian statesman and Freemason Giuseppe Garibaldi|
"... Italian freemasonry is divided into two principal groupings, commonly referred to by the name of their Rome headquarters. The Grand Orient, with between 15,000 and 20,000 members, had its headquarters in Palazzo Giustiniani, while its chief rival, with 5,000- 10,000 affiliates, was based in the central Piazza del Gesu. The revival of freemasonry in Italy after the war was encouraged by both the British and the Americans and lodges sprang up in the wake of the advancing Allied armies is the period of fascist persecution of masons came to an end. A secret service report on 'Freemasonry in Italy' highlighted the influence of British and American freemasonry on Italian lodges. 'Washington's policy is to direct European states towards interests and objectives that fall into the United States' orbit, concerned as it is not to lose Western Europe and to counteract Moscow's attempts to engineer the break-up of NATO,' it observed. The masonic influence of the United States coincided with its military presence. According to Guiseppe D'Alema, American lodges have been set up for every NATO base in Italy, beginning with the Benjamin Franklin, established in Livorno on 25 July 1959. Palazzo Giustiniani owed a particular debt of gratitude to US freemasonry as it only recovered its headquarters, which had been confiscated under Mussolini, after American pressure on the Italian government. A key role in the negotiations was played by one Frank Gigliotti, former OSS and then CIA agent. The agreement to return the building to the Grand Orient was signed in 1960 by the Italian finance Minister Grand Master Publio Cortini. Witnesses at the ceremony were US Ambassador James Zellerbach and Frank Gigiotti.
"Also in 1960, Palazzo Giustiniani received official recognition from the powerful North American masonic District. Part of the deal was that the Grand Orient should agree to merge with a small Scottish rite lodge headed by the right-wing Sicilian Prince Giovanni Alliata di Montereale. Despite its diminutive size, Alliata's lodge, based in Via Lombardia in Rome, already enjoyed the recognition of the North American district. It is a good indication of the political complexion of US-sponsored Freemasonry that Alliata would later be implicated in both the Borghese and Rosa dei Venti coup plots, as well as being linked to the Mafia."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pgs. 57-58)
But back to Gelli and his Masonic career. The highly regarded British researcher David Yallop notes:
"Gelli joined a conventional Masonic Lodge in November 1963. He rapidly rose to third degree membership, which made him eligible to lead a lodge. The then Grand Master Giordano Gamberini urged Gelli to form a circle of important people, some of whom might eventually become Masons but all of whom could be useful to the growth of legitimate Freemasonry. Gelli leapt at the opportunity. What he in fact conceived was an illegal secret organization. This group was given the name Raggruppamento Gelli – P2. The P stood for Propaganda, the name of an historic lodge of the nineteenth century. Initially he brought into it retired senior members of the Armed Forces. Through them he obtained the entry of active Service Heads . The web he spun was gradually to cover the entire power structure of Italy..."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 104-105)
"P2 was formed in the late 1960s, allegedly at the behest of Giordano Gamberini, a Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy and friend of Giulio Andreotti. But he was much closer to Francisco Cosentino, who also was well introduced in Vatican circles. Either Andreotti or Cosentino, or perhaps both, were said to have suggested the creation of a secret cell of trusted right-wing personalities in key national sectors, but especially banking, intelligence and the press, to guard against what they perceived as 'the creeping Marxist threat.' "
(Their Kingdom Come, Robert Hutchison, pgs. 263-264)
|Andreotti, the "Divine Julius"|
There are indication that the US intelligence community was also advocating the foundation of P2. Consider:
"... Frank Gigliotti of the US Masonic Lodge personally recruited Gelli and instructed him to set up an anti-communist parallel government in Italy in close cooperation with the CIA station in Rome. 'It was Ted Shackley, director of all covert actions of the CIA in Italy in the 1970s,' an internal report of the Italian anti-terrorism unit confirmed, 'who presented the chief of the Masonic Lodge to Alexander Haig.' According to the document Nixon's military adviser General Haig, who had commanded US troops in Vietnam and thereafter from 1974 to 1979 served as NATO's SACEUR, and Nixon's National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger 'authorized Gelli in the fall of 1969 to recruit 400 high ranking Italian and NATO officers into his Lodge'..."
(NATO's Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, pgs. 73-74)
|Ted Shackley, another intelligence figure with links to the Kennedy assassination|