Pavelists are a dissident group of Byzantine Rite Catholics who espouse a conspiracy theory regarding the 1958 Papal Conclave that elected Pope Gregory XVIJ. No reputable historian adheres to their beliefs.
Father Nicodim Ionescu Gyr (1906-1958) was a charismatic and by all accounts brilliant theologian who gained a following within the Church during the 1950s as an advocate of Traditionalism, the rejection of Modernism, and of being a critic of any attempts to compromise with the Eastern Orthodox Church, believing instead that the Orthodox Churches must "return to the fold." He himself was by all accounts a charming and gracious person despite his unyielding views. A Muntenian by birth, his reputation outside Romania has never been what some of his followers have claimed.
What is certain is that he was under consideration (how serious is open to debate) to become Metropolitan Archbishop of Oltenia in 1958 when Pius XII died. Gyr traveled to the Papal States at that time, and was killed in a car accident.
The theory claims that Gyr was assassinated by Oltenia's Securitate because he had in fact been elected Pope by the Conclave, taking as his name Paul VI. His death, the theory goes, was in the interests of the both the SNOR as well as their puppet regimes such as the White Regency, and also of the "Liberal Wing" of the Catholic Church.
Evidence of this theory stems from several claims:
- The assumption that Gyr was the leading candidate for the post of Metropolitan Archbishop of Oltenia and/or that he had already been confirmed to that position, or that Pius XII had been ready to confirm him into that post.
- A newspaper report that white smoke, instead of black, was seen following one of the earlier ballots, prior to Gyr's death, but that the voting continued anyway.
- Specific passages of letters sent by Gyr to friends and relatives while staying in Rome, one of which specifically states that if elected he would take the name Paul VI (his brother always claimed this was a joke).
- Widespread suspicion at the time of the accident which claimed Gyr's life, an accident judged "suspicious" by local authorities. (Note: Securitate records of the time--indeed all such--are deliberately incomplete.)
- The supposed "mysterious deaths" of several key figures in the 1958 Conclave as well as local police investigating Gyr's death (this is disputed, since the list includes those very advanced in years as well as police officers killed in the line of duty or individuals who did not die until many years after these events).
The theory itself was popularized in Louisianne in 1989, during the Conclave that elected Pope John XXIIJ, in pamphlets put out by various Anti-Snorist Groups, many of them fairly radical. The authoriship of these pamphlets is unknown, nor is it entirely clear if they were written in Louisianne, since they also appeared at very nearly the same time in Italy, France, Kemr and Xliponia as well as Greece. It's also unclear why they became so popular in Louisianne, aside the armchair hobby of Complots (Conspiracy Theories) that pervades the country at large.
Post-Snorist Romania has undergone various upsets and crises, including debate over Transylvania, Queen Elena I's marriage and heir, virtual witch-hunts to discover Snorist sympathizers, etc. Sociologists claim this is one reason a loud minority has taken up the cause of "Pope Pavel the Martyr" as a focus for their dissatisfaction.
In general, Pavelists are hostile to the Orthodox Church and suspicious of Rome. They distrust foreigners in general, Russians and Italians in particular, revering the Byzantine Rite as the purest form of Christianity. As a group, they tend to be extremely conservative, rejecting (among other things) freedom of religion, state-run schools, equal rights for women, Ecotopism and Socialism, gay rights, the League of Nations and Repulicanism. They favor PanRomanianism, Monarchy, censorship, and the teaching of a bizarre pseudo-science dubbed "creation science" as an "alternative" to evolutionary theory.
Still, it would be misleading to imagine all Pavelists share these views. Many do not. The Society of Paul VI, for example, are a fairly dignified group of conservative Catholics who nevertheless believe Gyr was indeed a legal pontiff, martyred for his faith. Books supporting the idea of Nicodim Gyr's election and assassination have sold in Romania supporting liberal as well as conservative points of view. It has even been hinted at in mainstream media such as episodes of the television show Abyss.
Others, however, have used Pavelism as an excuse or at least justification for violence such as vandalism and assault. Serial killers in Europe and North America have been believers in Pope Pavel and the novel The Columbus Journals included references to the theory.
Some point to similarities between this death and the assassination of General Moderator James Wainwright.