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Paul Marcinkus (/mɑːrˈsɪŋkəs/),[1] GCOIH (January 15, 1922 – February 20, 2006) was an American archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church and president of the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989.

Paul Marcinkus
Pro-President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State
Paul Casimir Marcinkus.jpg
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
AppointedSeptember 26, 1981
Term endedOctober 30, 1990
PredecessorSergio Guerri
SuccessorNone; position abolished
OrdinationMay 3, 1947
by Samuel Alphonsus Stritch
ConsecrationJanuary 6, 1969
by Pope Paul VI
Personal details
Birth namePaul Casimir Marcinkus
Born(1922-01-15)January 15, 1922
Cicero, Illinois, United States
DiedFebruary 20, 2006(2006-02-20) (aged 84)
Sun City, Arizona, United States
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Alma mater
MottoServite Dominum cum Laetitia


Early lifeEdit

Marcinkus was born in Cicero, Illinois, the son of an immigrant window cleaner who arrived in Cicero in 1914. His father Mykolas had left Lithuania to escape possible induction into the Russian army. Moving to the United States, he briefly lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before moving to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to work for a cousin as a farm hand, then moving to Cicero after finding work in a Chicago steel mill. By the time his fourth son, Paulius, arrived, he had started cleaning windows for the Leo Sheridan Co., a job he would hold for 30 years.

After attending Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Paul was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 3, 1947, and served parish assignments with both St. Christina's and Holy Cross Church on the city's south side. By 1949, he had been appointed to the archdiocese's matrimonial tribunal, which processed applications to have marriages annulled.

International careerEdit

Beginning in 1950, Marcinkus began to fulfill special assignments for the Vatican and became friendly with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Monini, later Pope Paul VI, while studying canon law at the Gregorian University. Upon earning his degree in 1953, he completed the two-year program for prospective diplomats at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and was assigned to Bolivia in 1955 and to Canada four years later, serving as secretary in the nunciature of the Holy See in both instances.

Beginning in December 1959, he worked at the Secretariat of State in Rome and served on occasion as an interpreter for Pope John XXIII. Under Pope Paul VI, Marcinkus became the prime English translator and helped manage arrangements for papal overseas trips. In addition, his height and muscular build enabled him to serve as a bodyguard for Paul VI, earning him the nickname "The Gorilla."[2]

On January 6, 1969, he received his episcopal consecration as Titular Archbishop of Horta.[3] Two months later, he refused to allow Secret Service agents to be present during a private audience between Paul and U.S. President Richard Nixon, saying "I'll give you 60 seconds to get out of here or you can explain to the president why the pope could not see him today."[citation needed]

In 1979, Marcinkus was reported as having been targeted by the Red Brigades, a far-left terrorist group, for possible kidnap or assassination after his address and other documents were found in the apartment of two group members, Valerio Morucci and Adriana Faranda.[citation needed]

On September 26, 1981, Marcinkus was appointed Pro-President of Vatican City, a title roughly equivalent to vice president.[4]

In 1982, he thwarted an assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in Fátima, Portugal, when Juan Maria Fernandez y Krohn, a deranged priest, attacked the pope with a bayonet.[5]

Vatican bank tenureEdit

Marcinkus was the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, also known as the Vatican Bank, from 1971 to 1989. As early as April 24, 1973, Marcinkus was questioned in his Vatican office by federal prosecutor William Aronwald and Bill Lynch, head of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the United States Department of Justice, about his involvement in the delivery of $14.5 million worth of counterfeit bonds to the Vatican in July 1971, part of a total request of $950 million stated in a letter on Vatican notepaper.

His name and the letter had arisen during the investigation of an international gangster, who eventually served 12 years in prison. Marcinkus said "he considered the charges against him serious but not based enough on fact that he would violate the Vatican Bank's confidentiality to defend himself...back in the States it was agreed on the highest levels that the case against Marcinkus could not be pursued any further."[6]

In July 1982, Marcinkus was implicated in financial scandals being reported on the front pages of newspapers and magazines throughout Europe, particularly the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, in which Propaganda Due (aka "P2"), a Masonic Lodge, was involved (Marcinkus had been a director of Ambrosiano Overseas, based in Nassau, Bahamas, and had been involved with Ambrosiano's chairman, financier Roberto Calvi, for a number of years). He also was involved with Michele Sindona, who had links with the Mafia.

Upon the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, Marcinkus was promoted within the Vatican bank and remained in office for several years before the scandal widened, after the body of Calvi, whose Banco Ambrosiano had dealt with Marcinkus, was found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982. The death of Calvi was seen by some as symbolic because Propaganda Due referred to themselves as the Black Friars. Adding to the troubles, journalist Mino Pecorelli, who had been investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and ties to organized crime, was murdered in 1979.[7] Marcinkus himself was never charged with a crime.[8]

He stepped aside as head of the Vatican Bank soon after, with a board of laymen assuming control of the bank.[9] The Vatican eventually paid £145 million in a settlement with creditors, with Marcinkus observing in 1986 that: "You can't run the Church on Hail Marys." [10] Marcinkus later said that he was misquoted, what he actually said was: "When my workers come to retire they expect a pension; it's no use my saying to them. 'I'll pay you 400 Hail Marys."[11]

He resigned his position on October 30, 1990.

Criminal accusationsEdit

In 1984, Marcinkus was named by investigative journalist David Yallop in his book In God's Name as a possible accomplice in the supposed murder of Pope John Paul I. Yallop made allegations regarding a number of suspects, involving the Mafia and Freemasonry.[12]

In 2008, the case of a missing person was reopened with claims by Sabrina Minardi, a former girlfriend of the boss of the Banda della Magliana gang, Enrico De Pedis. She said that Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, was kidnapped on orders of Marcinkus to send a message, and was later killed.[13]

Later life and deathEdit

He returned to the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1990 before retiring to Arizona, where he lived as an assistant parish priest. He declined to discuss his role in the Ambrosiano scandal. Archbishop Marcinkus died in Sun City, Arizona, aged 84, of undisclosed causes.[14][15][16]


Marcinkus was played by actor Rutger Hauer in the Italian film The Bankers of God. In Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III, actor Donal Donnelly portrayed Archbishop Gilday, a character based on Marcinkus.

In 2006, Tom Flannery's one-man play Marcinkus premiered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2016, Paul Marcinkus was portrayed by actor Randall Paul in Roberto Faenza's film La Verita Sta in Cielo.


  Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry, Portugal (2 September 1983)[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Archbishop Marcinkus, 84, Banker at the Vatican, Dies, New York Times, February 22 2006
  2. ^ Bernstein, Adam (February 22, 2006). "Paul Marcinkus, Indicted in Bank Scandal". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ Cornwell, Rupert (February 22, 2006). "Priest at the heart of 'God's Banker' scandal dies at 84". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on March 24, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  4. ^ Hirsley, Michael (March 12, 1989). "As Vatican Career Ebbs, Marcinkus Looks to Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Willey, David (October 16, 2008). "Film breaks usual Vatican secrecy". BBC News. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  6. ^ Joseph Coffey and Jerry Schmetterer: The Coffey Files (St. Martin's Press, 1992; Paperback edition 1993 ISBN 0-312-92922-6)
  7. ^ Cowell, Alan. "Andreotti at Crux of Murder Inquiry", The New York Times, June 10, 1993. Accessed March 23, 2008.
  8. ^ The New York Times "U.S. prelate not indicted in Italy bank scandal" April 30, 1989, accessed March 23, 2008.
  9. ^ Wall Street Journal Western Edition, "Vatican gives control of bank to board of laymen, as archbishop steps aside" June 21, 1989, page A17.
  10. ^ May 25, 1986, Observer, London
  11. ^ Cornwell, John. 'A thief in the night; the death of John Paul 1' London 1989.
  12. ^ Hofmann, Paul (8 July 1984). "BUNGLING AND SURMISES". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 May 2015. Retrieved 2 Nov 2018.
  13. ^ Kington, Tom (24 June 2008). "Girl missing since 1983 was kidnapped on Vatican archbishop's orders, police told". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 Sep 2008. Retrieved 2 Nov 2018.
  14. ^ "Scandal-hit Vatican banker dies". BBC News. February 21, 2006.
  15. ^ "Marcinkus, of Vatican scandal, dies". New York Times. February 21, 2006. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  16. ^ "Priest at the heart of 'God's banker' scandal dies at 84". The Independent. February 22, 2006.
  17. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
Additional sources