From Desmond O'Grady in Rome
A DECISION on the Vatican Bank—Ambrosiano affair seemed closer after a meeting between the Pope and the American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus on Monday.
There was no report on the substance of the meeting, the first official Papal audience for Archbishop Marcinkus in six months, but it followed close on the heels of an announcement that the joint Vatican-Italian commission of inquiry was nearing the end of its investigation.
The Vatican spokesman, Fr Romeo Panciroli said on Saturday that the Commission should "finish its work soon".
Originally the Commission was expected to complete its inquiries by March, but after that date it extended its inquiries to the bankrupt Ambrosiano Bank's branches outside Italy.
It is believed the Ambrosiano Bank used these branches for illicit transfers of funds. Some allege that Archbishop Marcinkus, President of the Vatican Bank (10R) collaborated with the late Roberto Calvi, head of the Ambrosiano, in these illegal manoeuvres. However, the Vatican has claimed that the Vatican Bank was unaware of the use Calvi made of his links with it.
In recent months the six-man joint Commission has been carrying out inquiries into the Ambrosiano Bank's activities in the' Bahamas, Nicaragua and Peru in recent months.
Archbishop Marcinkus is still President of the Vatican Bank and also Governor of the Vatican City-State. But he is no longer organiser of papal trips.
In October last year the Catholic Christian Democrat Treasurer said the Vatican had a moral responsibility for the bad debts of the Ambrosiano Bank as the Vatican Bank was an important business partner of the Ambrosiano.
Roberto Calvi had used letters of patronage from the Vatican Bank to raise loans. Apparently he in turn assured the Vatican Bank that it would not be held to honour these letters of credit.