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The global hunt for Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò currently underway by the Vatican's security services has renewed interest in the intelligence capabilities of the smallest yet oldest government on earth.
While the intelligence resources of the Vatican City State cannot be said to be comparable in funding or cutting-edge technology of the CIA, GRU or MSS, one would make a fatal mistake in underestimating the far reach, experience and capabilities of what many experts and historians consider to be the world's most discreet but greatest intelligence service. The fabled Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal is quoted as having said in an interview that "the best and most effective espionage service in the world belongs to the Vatican." It is for no small reason that Abp. Viganò, the Vatican's most wanted man, is on the run and has gone into hiding.
The true name of the Vatican's clandestine intelligence service is Santa Alleanza ("Holy Alliance") or L'Entità ("The Entity") according to Allen Dulles, the first director of the CIA. With motto being Cum Cruce et Gladio ("With the Cross and Sword"), it is said to have been created by Pope St. Pius V in 1566 in order to gather intelligence from the court of Elizabeth I and obtain her overthrow from power. This was long before the CIA even conceived of overthrowing governments.
Some say that the Vatican's counter-espionage section is the Sodalitium Pianum of the turn of the last century that everyone thought had been disbanded. For one to focus, however, on official names and structures is to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to the Vatican's intelligence network.
Those who have difficulty believing that cassock-attired clerics comprise the world's greatest intelligence network fail to recall just how it was the papacy, the most powerful institution in history, that invented and developed to great success the Catholic Church's tip-of-the-spear agency to investigate and gather information pertaining to dangerous sects threatening the stability of the Church, societies and kingdoms: the Papal Inquisition.
While statutorily established to investigate and bring to judgment those guilty of the civil and canonical crime at the time that was heresy, the inquisitors general and their eight-man teams were obliged by circumstances of history to develop sophisticated networks of capable informants who would excel at acting as true spies. Although the Inquisition as an internal intelligence "agency" of vast resources no longer exists, the Vatican still has two other, more "discreet" but highly effective networks of external spies that form parts of the Secretariat of State's Section for the Relation with States ("S.RR.SS.") and new Section for Diplomatic Staff.
Towering above the Piazza della Minerva in Rome, in what may appear to be just another ancient Roman palace, lies the Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica, or Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican's diplomatic and much softer equivalent to the CIA's Camp Peary — "The Farm." There, the cream of the crop of the Roman Catholic Church's priests are sent by their bishops to be trained to be members of what is still considered to be one of the world's elite corps of diplomats, the apostolic nuncios of the Holy See. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò was graduate no. 1447 of the Accademia's class of 1971 — "old school" in training prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Most Catholics don't realize that the principal gatherers of intelligence on the part of the Holy See are the apostolic nuncios and their diplomatic staff, just like the ambassadors and staff of embassies that are deployed around the world by every nation-state. The only difference is that the Holy See does not have any intelligence officers to declare "officially" to their host countries.
If Viganò is afraid for his life to the point where he has to destroy his cell phone and go into hiding overseas, it is not only out of fear of being tracked down by a staffer of the apostolic nunciatures and missions of the Holy See spread throughout the world — the "long arm" of the Secretariat of State that has ordered discovery of Viganò's whereabouts — but also if not principally out of dread for the intelligence capabilities of the Vatican City State's paramilitary Corps of Gendarmes of the Vatican City State currently led by Domenico Giani.
An ex-officer of Italy's much-feared financial police force called the Guardia di Finanza, the current Commandant of the Corps and Inspector General of the combined police and security forces of the Vatican City State is also the lead bodyguard of Pope Francis, just as he was for Pope Benedict. Every member of the Police and Security Forces of the Corps of Gendarmes, just like every member of the fabled Swiss Guards, is a former member respectively of Italy or Switzerland's military or police forces.
When Abp. Viganò served as secretary general of the Vatican City State, General Giani reported to him. Now, in a dramatic turn of events, it is Giani who has been ordered by his superiors not only to ensure the personal security of the Pope, but equally coordinate in the hunt for Viganò.
In 2008, the Vatican City State joined INTERPOL, the world's largest international association of police forces with offices based in 192 countries. As a result, the Vatican now has access to tremendous resources and databases through its official police contacts and INTERPOL office locations throughout the globe.
The Vatican intelligence services even have a Gruppo Intervento Rapido (GIR), or "rapid-intervention group," which is known to possess highly sophisticated and innovative technological and logistical assets used in the furtherance of its assignments.
The greatest danger to the life of Viganò is said to arise from Freemasonic elements of the Santa Alleanza or Entità possessing absolutely no moral scruples who will do everything in their power to prevent the archbishop from making any additional disclosures not only embarrassing to the Holy See, but even more, capable of destroying the reputations and concrete chances of certain cardinals from being elected to the Throne of St. Peter.
Outside of Italy, and even inside the country, it is not generally known to Catholics just how well inserted ideological Freemasons are into the intelligence services of the military apparatus of Italy and other European nations, and consequently the Vatican City State, which derives a number of its police, security and intelligence forces from among those nations' ranks.
While it is known that powerful groups of freemasons such as Propaganda Due ("P2"), who in the past had successfully infiltrated Vatican institutions such as the Institute for the Works of Religion (Vatican bank), have been disbanded by the Italian government, it is not known to many that successor groups of dangerous ideological Freemasons have succeeded in reconstituting themselves under different labels and taking control of key dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
Viganò and his heroic whistleblowing pose more than a threat to him personally, they pose a very real and credible threat to entire networks of very talented individuals who will stop at nothing to destroy the Catholic Church as we know it from within, once and for all.
The Vatican's search for Viganò, therefore, is not so much a mission of the Santa Alleanza to accomplish than an exercise of unholy powers to fulfill.
*9/14/2018: This article was updated to include information about Simon Wiesenthal.