Pope may be ‘tar­geted by Mafia’ over his bank probes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

VAT­I­CAN CITY: The Vat­i­can has down­played a warn­ing that Pope Fran­cis could be tar­geted by the Mafia be­cause of his re­forms to Holy See fi­nan­cial bod­ies.

“There is no rea­son for con­cern, and there is no need to feed alarmism,” Vat­i­can spokesman Fa­ther Fed­erico Lom­bardi said.

He added that the Vat­i­can – and, by ex­ten­sion, the pope – was “ex­tremely calm” re­gard­ing the al­leged threat.

The warn­ing was voiced by Ni­cola Grat­teri, a re­spected state prose­cu­tor in the south­ern Cal­abria re­gion, who said the vi­cious lo­cal mafia, the ’Ndrangheta, is “ner­vous” the pope is threat­en­ing its in­ter­ests.

“Those who up to now have fed off the power and wealth com­ing di­rectly from the church are ner­vous, up­set,” he told a news­pa­per this week.

The pope, Grat­teri said, “is dis­man­tling the Vat­i­can’s eco­nomic cen­tres. If the Mafia bosses can trip him up, they won’t hes­i­tate.”

Grat­teri’s warn­ing re­ver­ber­ated through the Ital­ian and for­eign me­dia, spark­ing fears for the pon­tiff ’s safety.

The Vat­i­can is say­ing it is sim­ply tak­ing the warn­ing in its stride.

Im­plied in Grat­teri’s com­ments is that Italy’s Mafia has its ten­ta­cles in the Vat­i­can’s ob­scure fi­nan­cial deal­ings and agen­cies, some of which have been marred by scan­dal.

Since tak­ing the pa­pacy in March, Pope Fran­cis has set about clean­ing up the Holy See’s vast hold­ings and mak­ing them more trans­par­ent.

One of his first steps was to in­stall a spe­cial com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the Vat­i­can’s bank and another to probe Vat­i­can fi­nances in gen­eral.

The pope has also called in a US con­sul­tancy, Promon­tory Fi­nan­cial Group, to con­duct an ex­ter­nal re­view of the Vat­i­can bank’s money-laun­der­ing rules and, more re­cently, to look into the in­ter­nal agency han­dling its many real es­tate hold­ings.

The Vat­i­can’s bank, known as the In­sti­tute for Re­li­gious Works, was the main share­holder of the Banco Am­brosiano, which col­lapsed in 1982 amid ac­cu­sa­tions of laun­der­ing money for the Mafia.

Banco Am­brosiano’s chair­man Roberto Calvi – dubbed “God’s Banker” – was found hang­ing from a Lon­don bridge in a sus­pected mur­der by mob­sters.

Italy’s crime syn­di­cates have been blamed for sev­eral high-pro­file as­sas­si­na­tions and ab­duc­tions. – Sapa-AFP

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