CARDINAL Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican's Secretary of State, denied this week that letters of patronage from the Vatican bank to the late president of the collapsed Banco Ambrosiano necessarily implied full-scale guarantees.
In an interview in this week's Italian news magazine L'Espresso, Cardinal Casaroli made the first open Vatican comment on the involvement of its own bank with
the now-liquidated Banco Ambrosiano.
The cardinal disputed press reports that the letters of patronage to the bank's president, the late Roberto Calvi, covered loans totalling $1.2 billion (£700 million).
"In the opinion of the experts, the tone of those letters, which are standard banking practice, is such that they do not necessarily imply a full obligation. I think there are limits to the commitment many people think those letters give rise to" said Cardinal Casaroli.
Cardinal Casaroli said last Friday that the total sum due to the Banco Ambrosiano from the Vatican was about £200-£250 million.
The Vatican has blamed oversight and inexperience as the main reasons for any mistakes on their part in the affair. But this implies a rebuke for Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, president of the Vatican bank, for the past 11 years. Relations between Archbishop Marcinkus and Cardinal Casaroli are said to be "not good."
The Vatican has denied a report in the Rome daily, II Messaggero, that the archbishop had been removed from his post as papal trip organiser and bodyguard.
Noting that archbishop Marcinkus would accompany Pope John Paul on his next foreign trip to Spain from October 12-20, the Vatican communique said he had not been removed from "any post" in the Vatican.