by our Rome correspondent THE legal curtain finally rises this week on the massive financial scandal which eight years ago embroiled the Vatican Bank, Institute for Religious Works (10R).
But the then TOR President, Chicago-born Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, now removed from the bank's directorship, will not be in the dock alongside 35 alleged accomplices.
In the preliminary 1,500-page long charges against the accused, of bank fraud and illegal exportation of up to $1.2 billion abroad for personal gain, judges write that the evidence against the 68-year-old archbishop and two of his lay aides side at the IOR was annulled "because of obligations of non-interference" in Holy See affairs under article 11 of the so-cabled Lateran cohabitation pacts with Italy in force when the scandal broke.
In June 1982, Roberto Calvi, President of the private Milan bank, the Ambrosiano of which the Vatican was a major shareholder, was found hanging dead under Blackfriar's Bridge in London. In Milan, his bank was collapsing with a £900 million debt.
The preliminary court charges, contained in 400 cardboard files, claim that Calvi, assisted by a network of financiers and businesses and to some extent his "privileged" relationship with the Vatican Bank, filtered cash to ghost companies abroad for personal gain.
The initial court hearings, in Milan, will strive to ascertain three main elements of what turned out to be one of the biggest bank frauds in Italy's recent, often scandal-ridden history.
The questions the court will try to answer are how Calvi managed to pilfer such a vast amount of bank funds, to whom he secretly distributed the cash and what part the Vatican really played in the affair?
On paper, the Vatican Bank is charged with assisting in the subtraction, concealment and dissipation of the Ambrosiano's patrimony by means of a series of transactions made to appear "as normal financial operations with third parties, contrary to the truth".