As we mentioned earlier, most information regarding Kiko and Carmen is very scripted, from almost the beginning. Wikipedia for instance, is obviously an advertising page, straight out of the NCW webpage.
Before we move on to the Italian part of what we could call "the Carmen and Kiko incredible adventures", I will develop a little more on the origins of these two fascinating but very controversial individuals.
When you research most writers, regarding the NCW , you find basically two camps: the pros, which consist for the most part of glowing personal experiences from actual members and Catholic officials acquired to their cause.
The anti, who have cataloged an exhaustive list of abuses, digressions and heretical positions, usually coming from former members, families of current members, observers of the Catholic Church.
The documents available are usually very short in the analysis of Carmen and Kiko, that give almost no indication of what their past has been.
It fits a well rehearsed image, of service to the poor, and a new form of Evangelisation supposed to be novel and refreshing.
Kiko Arguello's full name is : Francisco Jose Gomez de Arguello y Wirtz.
Like all spaniards he has a first and middle name that comes with last name of his mother and of his father.
According to his Bio, he was born on January 9 1939 in the province of Leon.
He also tells us that he was born in a wealthy family (adinerada or acomadada).
He found out about poverty, while visiting the house of his family's cook's house. Which means that most likely, his family had several servants, beside the cook.
Otherwise nothing on his mother or his father, except that he was not on good terms with them.
We know that he became a student at the Royal Academy of Arts of San Fernando, and that while there he received the annual National Award for painting in 1959 at the age of 20. (actually the national award for young painters, a slight but important difference).
We have already established that for somebody to enter this type of school, in that period of the Franco Regime, you had to be part of the elite, which means the Arguello y Wirtz were well connected.
Then there is a 5 years gap in the storyline provided to us, before he and Carmen started ministering to the poor in the Puente de Vallecas.
We can safely assume that Francisco had to achieve his military service like most able bodied males of that period, which means he was gone for 18 to 24 months.
This leaves us with a period of 3 to 3 1/2 years to either travel outside of Spain to embrace Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre as he claims (highly unlikely), before he discovered God through the writings of "St Charles de Foucauld" (he is only a blessed martyr).
A short book on his life was published in Spain in the early 60's, but it was a translation of an Italian author on de Foucauld.
In fact Kiko might have use de Foucauld's life as a storyline for his own script at a later date. It is highly unlikely that a confessed Atheist would read a bio of a Monk murdered at the beginning of the century.
Most likely he was coached by somebody with strong personality who could influence such a rebel.
There are very few Wirtz family name in Spain.
The earliest Wirtz of note in Spain are in the early 1800s during the Napoleonic War.
Several of them were in the Military as officer hailing from Great Britain that stayed afterwards.
This Branch is linked with a Protestant missionary experience, which saw a Protestant marrying a local Catholic lady.
The other Branch was Sephardic Jews from Bulgaria speaking Ladino ( a mix of Spanish and Hebrew) that had returned to Spain through Austria in the late 1800s.
While the Protestant Branch is mostly settled in the Bilbao area, the Jewish Branch is settled in the Segovia area in the Province of Leon, not far from Olvega.
We found that Kiko might have had a relative since a person in his 40's exploits a successful business in El Carmen( Leon) under the Name of Manuel Alberto Guerrero y Wortz...
Continued: Maria Carmen Hernandez Barrera.
Watching the duo Carmen/Kiko, Kiko is the focal point of the NCW enterprise. We have seen that despite this it is Carmen that had and still does possess the most religious and business acumen.
She is older, better educated, more astute and more importantly she is the one with the real political connections.
Early on, in their relationship, she took control of it. She educated, coached and propped up Francisco. She recognized his talents as a firebrand which mixed with his "artistic" side, will develop in the successful brand we know as the NCW.
The Hernandez Barrera family was a landowner family with conservative connections, allowing them to become an important economic power in the Leon province during the first 20 years after the end of the civil war.
In the early 1960s the Hernandez Barrera brothers: Antonio, Felix, Telesforo and Elias decided to grow their enterprises. They ventured into Andalucia, thanks to some government help and started purchasing large swaths of land to become the largest rice producer in Spain.
They diversified their business, and created banking and investment firms. In 1989 they became the largest shareholders of Grupo Ebro, soon becoming the 2nd largest manufacturer of Pasta in the world. (Brillante, La Cigala, Panzani)
In the last 20 years, they diversified their holdings, with ventures in olive oil, ecological tourism, banking, bonds. (they are the largest holders of Spanish Bonds)
Antonio died in 2011, Elias (the eldest) owns 90% of Royal Golf Club of Sevilla, Felix is an Aficionado of Bullfighting. He owns two large and well regarded Bull ranches.
In 2014, Forbes Magazine listed Elias Hernandez Barrera worth at 850 millions Euros (more than 1 billion $)
Their sister (Carmen) is a shareholder of several of their ventures, through a system of trusts and funds.
Continued: The incredible adventures of Carmen and Kiko.
In 1963/1964 the Catholic Church was going through radical changes, unseen in centuries.
What is now known as Vatican II, had been a long, drawn out fight between the different currents of philosophy of the Church. In Spain, like in most of the Spanish speaking world, the leaders of the Church were for the most part against reforms, seeing it as an unholy intrusion of Masonic and Jewish moles in the Vatican. (this whole section would merit a whole book). They had supported Franco in the civil war and its aftermath, because he was opposing such intrusions.
Carmen who was a nun, but had yet to take her vows, being a bright, highly educated (she speaks several languages, as well as latin and greek), she has a Phd in Chemistry and another degree in theology, but also was a "modern" woman, saw Vatican II as an opportunity to create a new path to what she felt was necessary changes in the Church.
Using the political acumen her family is famous for, she was able to sell her program, while continuing to develop its details.
The Franco Regime and the Spanish Catholic Church were both concerned by the festering issues of poverty in and around Madrid, that they saw (justly) as a breeding ground for political discontent. The traditional approach of the Church, which worked fairly well in rural areas, was at a loss in these slums.
Continued: the incredible adventures of Carmen and Kiko.
The idea that sold Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo to contact his good friend and vicar general of Rome Archbishop Angelo Dell'Acqua (the representative of the Pope as Archbishop of Rome) under Pope Paul VI, was that Carmen and Kiko could work the "miracle" they had achieved in Madrid.
Archbishop Morcillo took Carmen along in 1967 for the ceremony of elevation of Dell'Acqua to the Cardinalate, and they worked out the when and how, Carmen and Kiko would be able to start their Venture in Rome.
After the ousting of Mussolini in Italy by the King and Marshal Badaglio, the German had invaded Italy, which led to extremely hard fighting with the allies for the liberation of Italy.
There was still hard fighting in Northern Italy when the German signed their unconditional surrender in May of 1945.
After that Italy was administered by an American military government who put in place "christian democrats" allied to the USA. At the same time the communists were very active all over Italy, as they had taken a large responsibility in the resistance to Mussolini and the Germans from 1943 to 1945. As strong allies to Stalin in the USSR, they saw the church as a direct enemy.
Italy in the mid 1960s was still very much a place fraught with political and economical upheaval.
The North was mostly industrialized, and with a rich agriculture. The South (mezzagiorno) was extremely poor, rural and corrupted with strong mafia presence.
Rome, the eternal city, was in fact two cities. One of beauty and palazzos, the other of awful slums in the scarred ruins left by the war and the effect of poverty brought on by internal immigration from the south of Italy.
The Vicar General decided then, that the best place for Carmen and Kiko would be the shanty town of the Borghetto Latino, an old publican neighborhood of Rome which was made of illegal buildings strawn around without planning, and often without running water and/or electricity.
This was a place the good Cardinal felt needed a special effort.
Many poor people living there were from Abruzzo, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia.
Carmen had her bridgehead and was authorized to bring her companion and their dog and pony show to Rome.
History was ready to be made once more .
We last saw that Carmen had succeeded to get the Okay from Cardinal Angello Dell'Acqua to start a new community in the Borghetto Latino, the destitute Roman neighborhood, similar to what they claimed to have achieved in Madrid, under the hospices of Archbishop Morcillo.
This was in 1967, and our intrepid companions were moving most of their operation to Rome in 1968.
What many observers of the NCW are puzzled with is how Carmen and Kiko were able to get the authorization from the same Cardinal to start their first community in the Parish of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Canadian Martyrs?
Why is this so puzzling you might ask since they already have authorization to work in the Borghetto?
Well, it is very simple. If you ever go to Rome and visit this modern Church in the Nomentano Neighborhood of Rome, you will see right away it is not a poor neighborhood. Actually it is what you can call a very well to do neighborhood.
So how did this man of 29 years old, who could not speak Italian, (still sketchy 48 years later) and this former nun succeeded in this coup?
The explanation to the mystery lies into the connections of Carmen once again.
La chiesa de Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canedesi, happens to be the Church given to Cardinal Roy, Archbishop of Quebec, Primate of the Canadian Roman Catholic Church, Bishop of the Chaplains of the Canadian Armed forces, Participant in Vatican II, Member of the Council for Laity and of the Council for Justice and Peace. Later he will also become President of the Council on Family (this is important).
So what is the big deal? He was not Spanish or Italian, he was French Canadian right? Well, yes, but things are a lot more complicated that they seem.
Canada is a country of immigrants and it had welcome many Italian migrants chased by poverty and political persecution, as well as many Spaniards after the civil war.
So the Canadian, and the Quebec church in particular, were quite aware of the struggle of Catholics from Europe, and ministered to them the best they could.
Cardinal Roy himself was the product of the very traditional, some say ultra conservative Church of French speaking Canada. The Church there, had been an integral part of the French identity in a sea of English speaking and Protestant Churches.
They had become (almost by default) the cement of the French speaking Canadians, and the many "first nation" Catholics, that had been evangelized by "les robes noires" (the black robes).
The fact that Maurice Roy had been nominated Archbishop of Quebec and then Cardinal, had nothing to do with chance.
Maurice Roy, incardinated in 1927, was the son of a very prominent judge, who was also the Dean of the faculty of Law at the University of Laval, close friend of Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis,who happened to be the Godfather of Maurice. (hence his first name).
Mr Duplessis is a bigger than life political person of the Quebec and Canadian political scene.
An arch-conservative , Head of the conservative party, he was prime minister of Quebec from 1936 to 1939 ( and as such met and supported Francisco Franco, in Spain), and from 1944-1959 when he was he strong proponent to end the embargo against Spain.
This strong, anti-union, anti-communist leader, had his entries at the Vatican, and made sure that his protege had a stellar career.
Not long after his incardination in the Diocese of Quebec in 1927, Maurice Roy left for Rome to further his studies (Phd philosophy 1929), then Paris from 1929 to 1930 at the Sorbonne University and at the Catholic Institute.
We shall see why this is so crucial to have friends in the right place.
Continued: the incredible adventures of Kiko and Carmen.
(Note: While Frenchie uses the word "bridgehead" hear, he probably means "beachhead.")
The bridgehead at the "Chiesa de Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi".
Why it is important to understand the choice of Carmen and Francisco, to establish their first bridgehead in Italy in that specific Church.
We have seen that this Church is designated as the Canadian Titular Church. It had been declared so in 1965. So only three years before Carmen set her sight on it.
It is a modern Church by Italian Standard. It was build in 1955 by a famous Architect, Appolini Ghetti, with the participation of several well known artists: Francesco Nagni for the Altar, Angelo Biancini for the Ceramic, Giovanni (janos) Hajnal, for the Glass doors and Marcelo Avenali for the Stained glass.
If you visit this church and compare some of the designs with some of Kiko's later creations, you will understand the "inspiration" of our self described "artist".
This Church was already administered by an order of Priests: the Congregation of Priest of the Most Holy Sacrament.
Who are the Congregation of Priests of the Holy Sacrament?
The congregation of the blessed Sacrament (S.S.S) Societas Santissimi Sacramenti is a congregation of priest, deacons and brothers founded in 1856 by St Peter Aymard.
Their mission is to assist the Church in forming Christian communities whose center of life is the Eucharist. Hence their motto: " Adveniat Regnum Tuum Eurcharisticum" May your Eucharistic Kingdom come.
The congregation commits themselves to implement this goal through collaboration with laymen and laywomen engaged in different ministries.
In France St Peter Aymard was part of a post revolutionary Catholic renaissance, which after decades of persecutions, approached religion in the way of God's Mercy and Grace.
Contemporaries were St Peter Chanel, St John Vianney (the famous cure d'Ars, and patron Saint of priests) as well as St Marcellin Champagnat.
The congregation works with children to prepare them for Holy communion. It reaches out to non practicing Catholics. I commits itself to work with the poor and the weak, and work for the renewal of Christian communities.
Being in a well to do community this Church attracted many young individuals, who were eager for new answers for society, and were willing participant to new approaches.
Needless to say that Carmen was very aware of the potential of such parish.
The problem was that after first welcoming the new duo, the congregation was not that enthusiast to give away their hard earned work to new comers. They said that much to the Roman Vicar General.
Carmen was not going to let a few dedicated priests and a Cardinal slow her down in establishing their first prize in Italy.
She needed allies, and she knew exactly were to get them.
(P.S: please note that many of the corner stones of the ever evolving NCW tenets are shamelessly similar to things they encountered as they went)
When we last left Carmen and Francisco, they had snuck into a very nice parish in Rome: Chiesa de Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi. This newer Church was a perfect target for our intrepid duo. It had, and still has, a large following of young and eager Catholics and was quiet wealthy.
While it was run by priests from the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. (S.S.S), Carmen thought that since the Congregation encouraged the creation of communities within the parish, they would be able to perhaps start one of their own.
Carmen was particularly interested in poaching some of the affluent middle class young people attending Nostra Signora, and using their connections to further their network.
This was nice in theory, but faced by the arrogant attitude of Kiko and the caustic nature of Carmen, the pastor of the Church got a little impatient with the pair of Spaniards, who were supposed to help the poor in the Borghetto Latino, but were more interested in his parish, and benefitting from the hard work his congregation had done since the building of the Parish in 1955.
He made sure that Cardinal Dell'Acqua knew about this. The Vicar General of Rome, a close confident of Pope Paul VI, was starting to get concerned about the two pesky proteges of Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzales (Archbishop of Madrid).
When Dell'Acqua was approached by them to get the authorization for the creation of a community under their care within the Church of Nostra Signora, he was less than enthusiastic. The authorization was not forthcoming, and Dell'Acqua used every delaying tactics in the book.
Dell'Acqua was well aware of Carmen's family and its very powerful connections in Spain, but also inside the Curia. He chose to use delaying tactics in the hope that maybe the young duo would tire and change their mind. By the same token, he was buying himself time to clarify a strategy to control the problem as best as he could.
He did not take into consideration that Carmen as the daughter of a powerful family was used to get her way, as she always had in the past. Soon, she contacted her clan in Spain and started to put in motion the wheels of destiny that would bring us the Neocatechumenal movement.
We saw (earlier in this story) that Cardinal Roy was the most influential member of the Canadian Church, and that he also was the Cardinal-Priest of the Church of Nostra Signora. We also highlighted that Roy's godfather and best friend of his dad had been a strong supporter of the Franquist movement in Spain. Actually his godfather had become a good friend of the former foreign minister of Spain, Ramon Serrano Suner.
Serrano Suner had retired from politics in 1947 to go back to his successful Law practice, but he had remained an influential member of Spanish society due to his strong network. Mr. Serrano Suner is little known outside of Spain, but is nonetheless one of the most influential European politician of the first part of the 20th century.
Born in 1901 in Cartagena (southern Spain), to a prominent family, Suner's mother died when he was a teenager. Deeply conservative, he joined with Primo de Rivera Falangist movement before the civil war. Following the 1936 red terror, he and his two brothers were arrested. He managed to escape and rally his brother-in-law's lines, but his two brothers were assassinated. As the husband of Zita Polo, the youngest sister of Francisco Franco, he was one of the most influential person in the Franco organization.
After the death of Primo de Rivera, and the arrest of many of the falangist cadre, Suner rose to be the head of the Falange, then he became Minister of the Interior (and as such, one of the most feared men in Spain) 1938-1940. Then he became Foreign Minister 1940-1942.
As such he was in charge of the negotiations with the Axis power of Germany and Italy. In doing so he became friend with some of the most influential characters of these governments: Von Ribbentrop, Benitto Mussolini, Marshal Badaglio, Heinrich Himmler, and had very good relation with Philippe Petain when he was ambassador of France to Spain.
Despite that, Suner kept cordial relationship with the allies, and kept the channels opened with the USA, specially for the supply of petroleum to Spain. He also had direct access to Winston Churchill and to the Roosevelt administration.
In 1943 Franco got tired of his brother-in-law's disagreements with his policies and what he perceived as Suner's friendly relationship with the Axis countries. The Caudillo sidelined his brother-in-law, and after the war Serrano Suner retired from politics, to concentrate on opportunities the reconstruction of Spain had opened to people with the right connections.
A prolific writer and excellent linguist he published several notable books in French and in Spanish. He kept in touch with former OSS agent and future creator of the CIA, Allen Dulles, and is thought to have been a key player in the opening of American air bases in Spain.
Suner founded Radio Intercontinental in 1948, and help set up many of his business connection including the Arnaz familly and the Hernandez Carrera family.
Later in the 60s and 70s he helped sheltered several of his former Nazi and Facist connections, but also some of his allies in the CIA sphere of influence: i.e. The French generals of the 1961 Coup D'etat against de Gaulle, and many agents of friendly south American governments. He was influential in helping many officers of the French OAS to become feared technical advisors of the rightist regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile.
So it is not surprising that when the Secretary of Cardinal Roy got a call from the office of Serrano Suner, he made sure that Cardinal Roy received that call.
That same Secretary was quite impressed when right after that call, Cardinal Roy asked him to compose a letter to the Vicar General of Rome, Cardinal Dell'Acqua, requesting his assistance to create a new community in his Parish of Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi.
A few weeks later Cardinal Dell'Acqua agreed to Cardinal Roy's request.
That being said, Dell'Acqua, the Vicar General of Rome and the Pastor of Nostra Signora laid out a plan to keep a close eye on that Spanish duo, and keep them on a short leash. At least this is what they thought they had done.
Little did they know that their intuition was right: they had just let the wolves into the sheep's pen.
In the following five years Carmen and Kiko would use this opening to expand their venture, recruit key players to their camp, formulate their theories and articulate their theologian approach, which until then had been quite spotty.
During these years, Kiko would also find his "inspiration" for "his' art.
In our next segment we will go in more details in that key period of the NCW, and will show how it ties in with the work of Chuck White and others in Italy and Spain
To be continued.