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Subject: Vatican asks US to Quash Lawsuit
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000 02:15:57 GMT
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http://www.jewishsf.com/bk001201/sfvatican.shtml

Vatican wants U.S. to quash Holocaust survivors' suit
JOE ESKENAZI

Bulletin Staff


The Vatican is asking the U.S. government to intervene against a suit
filed on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

So, although it probably won't be his first priority, whoever becomes
president will find a letter on his desk from the Vatican requesting
that the United States block a class-action suit filed on behalf of 28
Americans of Ukrainian and Yugoslavian descent.

In a six-point note filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco
in late October, the Vatican secretariat of state expressed "surprise
and regret" over the pending case filed against the Vatican Bank and
the Franciscan order.

Among other claims, the suit charges the Vatican and Franciscans with
accepting valuables plundered by Croatia's Nazi-backed Ustashe regime
and using them to bankroll both the Nazi "Rat Line" to South America
and various Western powers' anti-Soviet campaigns.

The Vatican's six-point "Verbal Note" only recently found its way into
the hands of the lawyers who filed the class-action suit: Thomas Easton
of Bend, Ore., and Jonathan Levy of Cincinnati. The note "requests the
intervention of the Federal Government of the United States" in the
suit.

"This is the first response that the Vatican has publicly made in
writing in response to allegations of money-laundering and helping
Nazis during the Second World War," said Levy. "I think that's
significant. This is an important diplomatic note and my opinion is
that it has to be clarified."

Filed originally in November 1999, Easton and Levy's suit came on
behalf of 28 survivors of atrocities committed by the Croatian
occupation government. Upward of 600,000 Jews, Serbs and others were
killed by the Ustashe regime, while between 20,000 and 50,000 Jews were
liquidated in Yugoslavia's Jasenovac concentration camp.

Levy said he and Easton would file ask for a temporary stay so the
Vatican note could "filter upward to the proper authorities."

Taking on some of the world's richest and most well-connected
defendants, Levy and Easton have struggled to compel the Holy See to
disclose who actually owns the Vatican Bank. While the Vatican claims
that the bank is an organ of the Holy See and therefore subject to
sovereign immunity, the lawyers feel otherwise.

"The Holy See says the bank is primarily for pietical [religious]
purposes. But you look at a history of Nazi money-laundering and the
criminal indictment of bank president Paul Marcinkus in the
early '80s," said Levy. "One might think that the purpose is not
pietical and the bank is not even controlled through the Vatican.

"That bank has functioned as a money-laundering outfit in the past, and
if there are purposes supplanting the pietical, then it should not be
able to hide behind diplomatic sovereignty," Levy charged. "I certainly
don't think what was filed [by the Vatican secretariat of state] was a
clear or concise statement saying who the Vatican Bank is or who
controls and owns it. What I see is a bunch of denials and the Vatican
hiding behind a lot of legal maneuvering to avoid the question of their
complicity."

Morally, Levy said, the Vatican should have addressed its Holocaust
ties long ago.

"The real issue is, is the Vatican going to behave like a rogue state
or will it face up to historical matters?" said Levy. "Everyone else
has except the Vatican -- the Germans, Austrians, the Swiss. I think
the time has come for the Vatican to acknowledge its part in the
Holocaust."

For more information see www.vaticanbankclaims.com


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