But he was completely thrown by the suggestion that the bank's new president may have links to Germany's military.
"I would say that if he is a competent person who works in the field of ship-building, this is not a reason not to take him," Lombardi said. "As we know, he also organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes, he is a member of the Order of Malta, he takes care of the sick, so certainly he is a person with a notable human and Christian sensibility."
It appeared that the IOR's board simply didn't know about the old frigate contract and that von Fryberg didn't think to mention it, given that the company's primary work is in civilian shipbuilding.
The Vatican bank's finances have long been shrouded in secrecy and scandal. Most famously, the bank was implicated in a scandal over the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s in one of Italy's largest fraud cases. Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in circumstances that remain mysterious.
Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had made to several dummy companies in Latin America. The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans.
While denying any wrongdoing, the Vatican bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors.
David Rising and Juergen Baetz contributed from Berlin.
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