High-ranking officials of the Vatican Bank (Istituto per le Opere di Religione (I.O.R.)), spooked by last week’s international stock market plunge and the possible spread of Europe’s debt crisis, returned to Rome yesterday from their summer holidays to attend emergency meetings associated with the sudden meltdown of the world’s financial markets. Of major concern to the Vatican and its Bank are the countries of Italy and Spain, the third and fourth-largest economies in the Euro currency zone, both facing bankruptcy and a possible financial bailout similar to that of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
The Vatican Bank is seriously affected by the plummeting global markets, and it is only one of hundreds of international financial institutions owned by the Catholic Church that have already felt the shockwaves of a possible world financial collapse. At one time, the Vatican controlled more than ninety of Italy’s 180 credit, banking and insurance institutions, and had large involvements with the Rothschild of Britain, France and America, shareholdings in the Hambros Bank, the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich, the Morgan Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and major interests in the Bank of America.
The Vatican Bank, under the papacy of Pope John Paul II, became the source of sensational international scandals amidst dubious financial dealings that involved the loss of billions of Vatican dollars in an ill-fated counterfeit securities scheme instigated by the Holy See in partnership with the New York Mafia. To this day, the Vatican Bank remains the target of numerous lawsuits, a major one filed by Holocaust victims over the Holy See’s alleged possession of millions of dollars worth of Nazi gold, believed by many to have been used to mint Vatican Euro coins.