Priest at the heart of 'God's Banker' scandal dies at 84

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The Independent Online

Archbishop Marcinkus was found dead at his home in Sun City, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, where he had retired after leaving Rome in 1990. He had lived his final years as a parish priest, steadfastly refusing to discuss the scandal which had brought such discredit on the Catholic Church.

Powerfully built, Marcinkus first arrived in Rome in the 1950s. He was a bodyguard to Pope Paul VI, before being appointed President of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione - the Vatican Bank - in 1971.

"You can't run the Church on Hail Marys," he once said. But his efforts to improve the finances of the Holy See led him into disastrous entanglements, first with Michele Sindona, the Mafia-linked Italian banker, and then with Calvi, President of Banco Ambrosiano.

Ambrosiano collapsed in June 1982, and Calvi was found dead in London, hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge. Investigators quickly uncovered a network of tiny companies in Peru, Nicaragua and the Bahamas, many of them sponsored by the Vatican, in which Calvi had hidden some £700m of debts. Marcinkus himself was a board member of Ambrosiano's subsidiary in Nassau, a conduit for many of the illicit transactions.

Marcinkus denied responsibility, insisting he had been duped by Calvi. But the Vatican eventually paid £145m as settlement with Ambrosiano creditors.