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