The National Security Agency has been listening into telephone calls of the Pope and senior Vatican officials, an Italian magazine has claimed.
In an article in Panorama which will appear on newsstands tomorrow, the NSA is reported to have allegedly tapped the phonecalls of Vatican officials and senior prelates before and during the Conclave, as well as incoming and outgoing calls from the Domus Internationalis residence where the Pope was living before his election.
Panorama also says there are suspicions that the conversations of the Pope were even monitored long before he was elected. The magazine refers to the Wikileaks files which, it says, revealed that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been under surveillance since 2005.
According to the Italian weekly, incoming and outgoing calls from the Vatican were classified into four categories: "leadership intentions", "threats to the financial system", "foreign policy objectives”, and "human rights".
There are also suspicions that calls surrounding the election earlier this year of the new President of the IOR (Vatican Bank), Ernst von Freyberg, were monitored. The IOR has been implementing a number of transparency measures over the past few years, one of which is aimed at eliminating the possibility of terrorist organisations using the Vatican Bank to launder money.
Panorama says that an annex of the U.S. Embassy to Italy has a section dedicated to spying made up of NSA and CIA agents. These findings, Panorama says, are backed up by the archives leaked by former intelligence officer Edward Snowden that reportedly confirm the presence of an elite spying unit in Rome – part of a network found in 79 locations, including 19 in Europe.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has played down the claims, saying: “We don’t know anything about this, and in any case we don’t have any concerns about it.”
The U.S. embassies to Italy and the Holy See have so far not publicly commented on the allegations.
Today a delegation from the German secret service will be received at the White House to discuss alleged NSA tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
The NSA has since said that it "does not target the Vatican" and that the allegations published by Panorama are "not true", according to Reuters.