Aide "Astonished" Over Vatican Funds Freeze

Says Directors Will Soon Clarify Misunderstanding

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman is expressing astonishment over the confirmation of an Italian court of the seizure of a deposit by the Institute for the Works of Religion.



Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said Wednesday that he received this news with "astonishment."

The issue was reported last month when Italian finance authorities imposed a precautionary freeze on a €23 million ($30 million) deposit of Vatican funds at the Credito Artigiano Bank.

The procurator's office in Rome also announced an investigation of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Vatican institute, and Paolo Cipriani, the director-general. The investigation was related to alleged violations of European Union laws against money laundering.

Father Lombardi told journalists that this points to "an interpretative and formal problem."

He noted that the directors of the Institute for the Works of Religion "maintain that they will be able to clarify the whole question soon with the competent authorities."

In a statement published by the Financial Times last month, Father Lombardi clarified that the institute is "not a bank in the normal definition of the term."

Rather, he said, "It is an institute that administers the assets of Catholic institutions, who aim to further a religious and charitable apostolate at an international level."

The priest noted that the institute "is located within the territory of Vatican City State, beyond the jurisdiction and surveillance of various national banks" and that its "particular status means that its position in the system and the regulations of international finance require a series of agreements to establish the procedures necessary."

He added that "this is especially true in light of the new norms laid down by the European Union to combat terrorism and money laundering."