Vatican City

'Doubts' raised among cardinals over papal frontrunners

Scherer tied to Vatican Bank, Scola to Formigoni

'Doubts' raised among cardinals over papal frontrunners

(By Christopher Livesay) Vatican City, March 13 - Heading into the conclave to elect the new pope this week, the names of two cardinals were widely believed to be the frontrunners, one a Brazilian beloved by Vatican insiders from the Roman Curia, the other an Italian with backing from those interested in an outsider's reformist touch. But as Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola and Sao Paulo Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer were locked into the Sistine Chapel to vote among the 115 cardinal-electors, concerns over their potential papacy were reverberating in Rome. On Tuesday, just hours before the cardinals took part in a pre-conclave mass at St Peter's Basilica, anti-mafia police raided hospitals, homes and offices in the Lombardy region around Milan in a healthcare corruption probe in Scola's diocese. Scola himself is not implicated. But for his childhood friend, former Lombardy Governor Roberto Formigoni, it was the latest in a string of corruption scandals involving his regional administration, which led him to dissolve his executive last October. One of the open charges involves an ongoing investigation into whether Formigoni accepted money from a lobbyist for private use, which he flatly denies. Formigoni is one of the leading members of the Communion and Liberation (CL) movement, a conservative lay-Catholic group that encourages evangelization in all sectors of society, such as schools and the workplace. Scola was the CL's biggest advocate among the cardinals until recently distancing himself from the group. The movement, founded in the 1960s as a response to Marxism and other leftist movements in Italy, carries huge political clout in Italy, having lent substantial support to former premier Silvio Berlusconi, among other politicians. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, an anonymous European cardinal said Scola was "too connected to politics" and said he plans to discuss CL in the conclave. Another issue Vatican watchers expect the conclave to address involves the troubled Vatican Bank where Scherer, a former member of the Curia, is closely connected. According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, the bank, otherwise known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), was discussed at the last pre-conclave meeting of the cardinals. Lombardi said talk surrounded a brief report on the "process of integrating with Moneyval," which is the Council of Europe's committee on financial transparency. The Vatican has been making efforts to comply with Moneyval in order to join the 'white list' of states that respect international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. One high-profile controversy during Benedict XVI's papacy involved the Vatican Bank, whose head was sacked amid a push to get it on the UN's list of countries with flawless anti-money-laundering credentials. Scherer, who has defended the bank's record as a member of its oversight commission, will likely face concerns from cardinals who are interested in reforming the bank and making it more transparent. And given the questions raised over Scola's background, Vatican watchers are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that only God knows who will ascend the throne of St Peter.

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