Institute for Works of Religion

Institute for Works of Religion

The Institute for Works of Religion (Italian language: "Istituto per le Opere di Religione" - IOR) commonly known as "Vatican Bank" is located inside the Vatican City. It is run by a professional bank CEO who reports directly to a committee of cardinals, and ultimately to the Pope (or the Cardinal Camerlengo during an "interregnum"). Since its assets are not considered property of the Holy See, it is not overseen by the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, [Pollard, 2005, p. 2] and it is listed in the Annuario Pontificio together with foundations such as the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, which provides funds for training people to fight drought and desertification in nine African countries. ["Annuario Pontificio" 2007, p. 1964] The current President is Angelo Caloia.

The Institute was involved in a major political and financial scandal in the 1980s, concerning the 1982 $3.5 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, of which it was a major share-holder. The head of the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989, Paul Marcinkus, was under consideration for indictment in 1982 in Italy as an accessory of the bankruptcy. ["The New York Times": "U.S. prelate not indicted in Italy bank scandal" 30 April 1989]

The Bank Identifier Code of the Vatican Bank is IOPRVAVX.


The "Istituto per le Opere di Religione" was founded on 27 June 1942 by Pope Pius XII. It absorbed the Amministrazione delle Opere di Religione (Administration of the Works of Religion), ["Annuario Pontificio" 2007, p. 1962] which was in no sense a bank, having been established by Pope Leo XIII on 11 February 1887 to manage the much reduced funds at the disposal of the Pope after the complete loss of the Papal States in 1870; these funds were greatly increased as part of the settlement of the Roman Question by the Lateran Pacts of 1929. [ [ Lateran Pacts of 1929] ]

The purpose of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione is "to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred to entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons and intended for works of religion or charity". ["Annuario Pontificio" 2007, pp. 1962-1963]

It is thus not a department of the Roman Curia, and is therefore not among the departments of this central administrative structure of the Roman Catholic Church listed in [ that section] of the Holy See Web site.

Nor is it a central bank responsible for a country's monetary policy and for maintaining the stability of a currency and money supply.

It is unlike a normal bank also in that any profit it makes does not go to shareholders, which in this case do not exist, but is used instead for religious and charitable purposes. [L'Osservatore Romano, 24 February 2008]


According to the norms of its present statutes, which came into effect in 1990, the IOR is directed by a supervisory council and by an oversight commission of cardinals.

The Cardinal Commission for the Supervision of the Institute for Works of Religion is composed of:
* President: Tarcisio "Cardinal" Bertone
* Attilio Nicora, president of Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (Apsa);
* Jean-Louis "Cardinal" Tauran, French;
* Telesphore "Cardinal" Toppo, Indian;
* Odilo Pedro "Cardinal" Scherer, Brazilian.

The supervisory council is composed of:

* President: Angelo Caloia
* Vice-President: Virgil C. Dechant
* Robert Studer
* Manuel Soto Serrano
* Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz

The oversight commission is composed of five cardinals headed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Since February 2008, the other cardinals are Attilio Nicora, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See; Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Telesphore Placidus Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi; Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo.


The Vatican Bank is said to be a successful and profitable bank. By the 1990s, the Bank had invested somewhere over US$10 billion in foreign companies. In 1968 Vatican authorities hired Michele Sindona as a financial advisor, despite Sindona's questionable past. It was Sindona who was chiefly responsible for the massive influx of money when he began laundering the Gambino crime family's heroin monies (taking a 50% cut) through a shell corporation "Mabusi". This laundering was accomplished with the help of another banker, Roberto Calvi, who managed the Banco Ambrosiano. Both Calvi and Sindona were members of the P2 Lodge.'Mark Lombardi: Global Networks". Mark Lombardi, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Judith Richards; Independent Curators, 2003 (published for the travelling exhibition of his work, "Mark Lombardi Global Networks"). ISBN 0-916365-67-0 ]

When Pope John Paul I became Pope in 1978 he was informed about the allegations of wrongdoing at the Vatican Bank, and instructed Jean-Marie Villot, Cardinal Secretary of State and head of the papal Curia, to investigate the matter thoroughly. Pope John Paul I died after only 33 days in office, leading to claims that he had been murdered as a result of discovering a scandal. Pope John Paul I is generally accepted to have died from natural causes, although some medical experts believe that he may have died from a pulmonary embolism or an adverse reaction to the medication that he was taking rather than from a heart attack as was stated in original press reports of his death.

Banco Ambrosiano scandal

The Vatican Bank was Banco Ambrosiano's main share-holder. Father Paul Marcinkus, head of the Institute for Religious Works from 1971 to 1989, was indicted in Italy in 1982 as an accessory in the $3.5 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, one of the major post-war financial scandals. Banco Ambrosiano was accused of laundering drug money for the Sicilian Mafia, which used Propaganda Due (aka "P2"), a mobbed up Masonic lodge, as an intermediary. P2 and its Worshipful Master, Licio Gelli, were also involved in financing right wing terror groups during the 1970s. As for Fr. Marcinkus, he would never come to trial in Italy, where courts ruled that he possessed diplomatic immunity. He lived in retirement in Sun City, Arizona (US) until his death on February 21 2006.

The Vatican Bank has denied having legal responsibility for the Ambrosiano's downfall but did acknowledge "moral involvement", and paid $241m (£169m) to creditors. As of 2006, investigations are continuing concerning the murder of Ambrosiano's chairman, Roberto Calvi, which, according to Ernest Backes, former #3 of Clearstream, may have been linked to the death of Gérard Soisson, who used to work for Clearstream, a "bank of banks" which practices financial clearing. According to recent wiretap information,Fact|date=February 2008 however, Calvi's death was almost certainly decreed by the Cupola, the ruling council of the Sicilian Mafia, which had come to view Calvi as a liability since the bank's collapse.

Other allegations

Several booksClarifyme|date=February 2008 that appeared during the 1990s were highly critical of the Vatican Bank's historical relations with right-wing governments and especially in the collaborationist regime of the Independent State of Croatia. They engendered initial defensive hostility and controversy. The controversy centers on conclusions drawn from the documentation rather than the documents themselves.

According to a 1998 report issued by the US State Department, the Nazi Croatian treasury was illicitly transferred to the Vatican Bank and other banks after the end of World War II. For its part, the Vatican has repeatedly denied any Franciscan participation in Ustashi crimes or the disappearance of the Croatian Treasury, yet has refused to open its wartime records to substantiate its denial.

A 1946 memo from US Treasury agent Emerson Bigelow, declassified in 1997, quoted a "reliable source in Italy", who alerted his superior that Croatian officials had sent 350 million confiscated Swiss francs (CHF) to the Vatican Bank "for safekeeping". On the way some CHF150 million were allegedly seized by British authorities at the border between Austria and Switzerland, which brought the secret transfer into the open. "There is no basis in reality to the report", said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, as reported in "Time" magazine [,8599,8505,00.html] .

The Vatican Bank has been often accused of funding the Solidarity Polish trade-union as well as the Contras, managing US covert funds. [cite news | title=Gelli arrest is another chapter in sordid Vatican bank scandal | publisher=American Atheists | date=September 16 1998 | url=]

Legal action

Vatican Bank and Franciscan Order were accused of financing the ratlines and ODESSA and laundering concentration camp loot. A class action suit, Emil Alperin et al. v. Vatican Bank et al., was filed in the United States district court in San Francisco on November 15 1999. The plaintiffs are concentration camp survivors of Serb, Jewish, and Ukrainian background and their relatives as well as organizations representing over 300,000 Holocaust victims. John Loftus, co-author of "Unholy Trinity", serves as an expert witness in this case.

Another suit, Levy v. CIA, filed under the US Freedom of Information Act seeking release of US intelligence agency files regarding the alleged Vatican spymaster, Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic. New records on Draganovic were released as a result of that lawsuit in 2001.

The lawsuit was still pending in a United States Federal Court as of August 2008.

Role in popular culture

The 1990 film "The Godfather, Part III" featured machinations in the Vatican Bank as a central element in one of its more conspiracy-oriented plotlines.


*John F. Pollard - "Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950" ISBN 0-521-81204-6
*Mark Aarons and John Loftus: "Unholy Trinity: How the Vatican's Nazi Networks Betrayed Western Intelligence to the Soviets". New York: St.Martin's Press, 1992. 372 pages. ISBN 0-312-07111-6
*Charles Raw - "The Moneychangers: How the Vatican Bank Enabled Roberto Calvi to Steal 250 Million Dollars for the Heads of the P2 Masonic Lodge" (Harvill Press, 1992) ISBN 0-00-217338-7
*Giancarlo Galli - "Finanza bianca. La Chiesa, i soldi, il potere" (Mondadori, 2004) ISBN 88-04-51262-8
*David A. Yallop - "In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I"
*"Mark Lombardi: Global Networks". Mark Lombardi, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Judith Richards; Independent Curators, 2003 (published for the travelling exhibition of his work, "Mark Lombardi Global Networks"). ISBN 0-916365-67-0
*Jonathan Levy, "The Vatican Bank, Chapter in Everything You Know is Wrong", (Disinformation Press, 2002, ISBN 1-56731-701-4
*Michael Phayer, Pius XII: The Holocaust and the Cold War, 2008, ISBN 13:978-0-253-34930-9.


ee also

*Economy of the Vatican City

External links

* [ The Vatican City Homepage]

*cite news | title=Nazi-Era Victims Demand Army, CIA Release Documents on Vatican | publisher=CNS News | date=September 4, 2000 | url=
* [ "The Vatican Bank claims" website]
* [ "The Vatican, Croatia and the Nazi Gold"]
* [,8599,8505,00.html "The Vatican Pipeline: U.S. intelligence document links $170 million in Nazi gold to the Vatican"] —report on declassified memo in "Time Magazine", July 22, 1997
* [ Profile] of Marcinkus in "the Arizona Republic"

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