It is a story which links the Vatican with the world of international finance, the Italian mafia and a bridge over London’s River Thames. The death of former Archbishop Paul Marcinkus means the extent of the Catholic Church’s involvement in one of Italy’s biggest financial scandals may never be known. Marcinkus was head of the Vatican Bank in 1982, at the time of the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, in which it was majority shareholder. To avoid mounting debts, the head of the bank, Roberto Calvi, had salted away 900 million euros in tiny companies around the world. Calvi was later found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge with bricks in his pockets – the hallmarks some said of a Mafia killing. An inquest verdict of suicide was later overturned and police in London launched a murder investigation.
Marcinkus escaped arrest after the Italian authorities decided Vatican employees were immune from prosecution. But the Catholic Church acknowledged “moral involvement” in the case and paid 200 million euros to creditors. For the rest of his life, Marcinkus refused to discuss the affair. The controversial cleric was found dead at his home in the United States. He has taken the secrets of the 24 year old scandal to the grave with him.