The Vatican Hiding Behind the Walls

An arrest warrant leads to a legal standoff with Italy

"I may be a lousy banker, but at least I'm not in jail," Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, 65, told visitors two years ago, after Italy's biggest bank failure had exploded around him. The Archbishop, who heads the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, may not make that claim so confidently in the future. Last week a Milan judge named Marcinkus in an arrest warrant as an "accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy" in connection with the 1982 collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, then Italy's largest private banking group.

The Vatican Bank was a shareholder in Banco Ambrosiano, and...

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