ROME – In two recent interviews, the former president of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), better known as the Vatican Bank, spoke about the relationship between members of the Roman Curia and a failed Italian bank, the manipulation of accounts at the IOR and how working in the Vatican led him almost to lose not only his faith, but also his life.

“The Church has nothing to do with these happenings. This is the Vatican, the Vatican Curia, where there is everything you cannot imagine,” Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said March 21 in his first interview with Italian media outlet Le Iene.

“I was about to lose my faith,” he said, before adding that working at the Vatican also made him nearly lose his life.

The interview for the most part was about the 2013 death of David Rossi, former head of communications for Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), one of the oldest banks in Europe. The institution fell into serious financial difficulty starting in the 2010s and was entangled in various political and economic scandals.

One source told Le Iene that four accounts within the IOR could be traced back to members of the foundation behind Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Before heading the Ior, Gotti Tedeschi was the head of Santander Bank in Italy, which bought the smaller Antonveneta Bank in October 2007 only to resell it in  to MPS one month later.

The acquisition of Antonveneta began an avalanche of scandals and financial failures at MPS.  In 2013, Rossi fell from his window to his death in an apparent suicide.

Gotti Tedeschi said that the then president of MPS, Giuseppe Mussari, was never seen at the Vatican, but another person (whose name is redacted from the interview) handled the relationship directly with the former Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

He also suggested that the issues with Antonveneta, which he described as a “dump,” came from the desire from the administration of MPS not to merge with the small regional bank and instead acquire it, so its power and authority would not be diluted.

Regarding the four accounts, Gotti Tedeschi said that he “didn’t see anything” or would have otherwise used it to “blow up the Vatican.” Later in the same interview, the former IOR president hypothesized that those accounts may have contained dirty money meant to be laundered.

“They are bribes, it’s evident,” he said. “That those [accounts] exist is possible, there was everything in there, everywhere you looked, but no one will tell you.”

Gotti Tedeschi continued to describe forces within the Vatican that could manipulate accounts within IOR at will.

“You could send there the biggest police force in the world and in one minute they would change the accounts,” he said. “It’s a system that did not allow anyone in.”

He said that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI asked him to come in to clean up IOR, and get rid of the accounts that were not supposed to be there and were sometimes used for money laundering purposes. He also said that since working at the pope’s bank he encountered “spite, traps, threats and intimidation” from the Vatican Curia.

“Pope Benedict was fed up with being told constantly that [IOR] was the only true heaven, so he called someone who would have closed it, me,” he said. “I obeyed him, that’s it, no one else.”

Asked whether the curia could commission a murder, Gotti Tedeschi burst out laughing.

“There are people within who would not surprise me at all if they did it,” he said.

Gotti Tedeschi said that while many good people exist within the Church, some are guided by interests that are not evangelization or holiness.

“Paul VI spoke of the ‘smokes of Satan in the Vatican,’ John Paul II and Benedict XVI of the ‘enemies at our backs,’ the popes said it,” he said.

In the second interview Gotti Tedeschi specified that he never looked at accounts directly while heading IOR in order to have plausible deniability. He added that he was told when he was hired to ignore the “natural curiosity” of wanting to know who owned the accounts at the Vatican.

He added that to his knowledge, only Giulio Mattietti, former director of the IOR, Paolo Cipriani, former director general of IOR and his deputy Massimo Tulli knew who held the accounts.

Tulli and Cipriani were found guilty by a Vatican court in February 2018 for financial mismanagement.

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Gotti Tedeschi suggested that he was afraid for his life and for that of his family if people thought that he knew who the holders of the account at IOR were.

“What about your family? To protect them you would need the greatest protection system one can imagine,” he said.

“Having a secret is a double-edged sword,” Gotti Tedeschi concluded. “If you are strong it allows you to influence others. If you are weak or choose to be weak… you are dead.”