Monday, March 11, 2013

Dark financial clouds hang over Vatican

ROME - All roads lead to Rome, and the road to the papacy starts here.

First thing tomorrow, the cardinals who will choose the next pope will gather at St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate mass together. ...

The Vatican is more than the world's largest religious institution -- it's a business. It is also a business in trouble. Behind great ecclesiastical pageants, like former Pope Benedict's farewell, there are back-room financial scandals at Vatican Inc.

In an old stone tower, in Vatican City, is the Vatican Bank.

The church's various departments, its priests and employees keep accounts here; secret accounts, hidden from the prying eyes international regulators. An Italian court investigating the bank found documents showing some accounts had been used for money-laundering and other illegal -- and for the church, highly embarrassing -- activities.

Vatican watchers, like Marco Politi, have studied the court documents that verified the bank's transactions have not always been kosher.

"There was money of the mafia who was recycled through the channels of the Vatican Bank, and also bribe money to political parties in Italy went through the Vatican Bank," Politi said.

With dark financial clouds hanging over the Vatican, the European Union insisted the bank open its accounts to public scrutiny. When it was too slow, tourists felt the pinch. When European bankers suspended the Vatican's credit card facilities, visitors couldn't use plastic to buy Sistine Chapel tickets.

VATICAN CITY

CBS News

By Mark Phillips