On June 28 this year, Italian police arrested a silver-haired priest, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, in Rome. The cleric, nicknamed Monsignor Cinquecento after the â‚¬500 bills he habitually carried around with him, was charged with fraud and corruption, together with a former secret service agent and a Âfinancial broker. All three were suspected of attempting to smuggle â‚¬20m by private plane across the border from Switzerland.
Prosecutors alleged that the priest, a former banker, was using the Institute for Religious Works ”“ the formal name for the Vatican’s bank ”“ to move money for businessmen based in the Naples region, widely regarded in Italy as a haven of organised crime. Worse still, Scarano (who, together with the other men, has denied any wrongdoing) had until only a month earlier been head of the accounting department at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the treasury of the Vatican.
The arrest, and the headlines that screamed across the Italian press, was the latest shock for the Holy See….