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Why the exception?  Who knows?  Given the vast sex scandals maybe there's something big here too.  In any case, what have they got to hide?

VATICAN CITY — Negotiations over the Vatican’s adherence to international banking standards were reaching a delicate point. During a lunch, a European official later recalled, discussion turned to the need for more openness from an institution steeped in centuries of secrecy.

A Vatican representative at the meal, annoyed by the requests for more information, shouted, “How can you ask us such questions?”

The clash came amid mounting pressure on the Vatican to clean up its bank — for decades the subject of dark intrigue and linked to one mysterious death — as part of a push by the European Union to apply common rules to all the countries and micro-states like Vatican City and Monaco that use the euro.

But largely because of the Vatican’s reluctance to reveal its account holders to outside authorities — and especially to subject itself to scrutiny of past transactions — suspicion has swirled for years about whether some of its accounts had ties to organized crime or Italian political slush funds.

In 2011, the only time for which figures have been made available, it had 20,772 clients, 68 percent of them members of the clergy, and $8.2 billion in assets under its management. The bank has said it has around 33,000 accounts.

In recent years, Italian prosecutors have become more aggressive in investigating whether accounts held there by clerics might in fact be fronts for other interests. Last July, the Italian authorities arrested a priest on charges that he allowed a lawyer to use his Vatican bank account to commit insurance fraud.

Some in the Vatican are eager for change, but “you should not underestimate the resistance on issues of transparency” from tradition-bound forces, the European official said.

In December 2000, the Vatican signed a monetary agreement in order to use the euro in its tiny territory and to issue coins bearing the marking Città del Vaticano as well as commemorative coins, which it sells at considerable markup to tourists and others.

But the agreement, to the dismay of officials in Brussels, included none of the commitments made by most other euro-using countries to combat money laundering. The European Commission demanded that the accord be revised.


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