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Cards In Doubt: Cash Only At The Vatican …

  • January 5th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

sistine-chapel-edu.jpgCredit cards were not being accepted this week at tourism counters and elsewhere in the Vatican; the result of a banking glitch that has added to financial reputation problems for the tiny theocracy.

eu-symbol-coins3.jpgThe problem traces back to client services provided to the Vatican bank by a major banking corporation, failing to observe protective standards required by the European Union.

While the mini-state’s own bank sets up a new contract, visitors to sites such as the Sistine Chapel (picture) are having to pay cash; not the nightmare it may have been with the state of Italian inflation in decades past, but enough of a problem for all involved in managing the paper.

The embarrassment is aggravated, and made most noticeable by the combination of factors, where a wee temporal entity hardly viable as a “country”, and prone to mismanagement, is put together with the power and resources of the universal Catholic Church, and its reputation since Medaieval times as an organisation prone to tricky and arcane politics in the higher echelons.

It makes for at least a compelling yarn (and the occasional mystery movie): the allure of clandestine knowledge, fed by periodic eruptions to do with actual money and power.

A fraud investigation last year turned over accounts held with the Vatican bank, amid claims, denied, of a link to money laundering by organised crime; and also, the curious case occurred of the Pope’s butler, prosecuted for leaking documents he’d found in the papal apartments, pardoned just before Christmas (22.12.12).

More seriously and far more murky was the death in 1981 of  Roberto Calvi, head of the Banco Ambrosiano, found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge after skipping Italy on a false passport. The corporation, partly owned by the Vatican bank, was wound up, at the end of a tortured history, with tales of Mafia involvements,  official corruption, machinations within a secret and illegal Masonic Lodge, massive embezzlement, and use of the bank to fund right wing political insurgencies overseas.


RT TV, Moscow, “Unholy mess: Vatican amidst mafia money-laundering scandal”, 13.6.12., (5.1.13).

Rachel Sanderson, “Crisis of faith over Vatican ATMs”, FT, London, 3.1.13., (5.1.13).