Home from the bank:Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, the...

Newswatch...on religion

November 02, 1990

Home from the bank:

Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, the American who headed the Vatican bank for 20 years and was implicated in one of Italy's biggest banking scandals, retired this week and is heading home to Chicago.

Marcinkus, 68, a native of Cicero, Ill., says he hopes to "make myself useful in whatever pastoral work I may be able to do . . ."

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago praised Marcinkus for his "great dedication to the church and his personal integrity" and said "the door to his home diocese will always be open to him."

Marcinkus' last post was deputy governor of the Vatican city-state. Pope John Paul II has named Marcinkus as a consultant to the commission overseeing the Vatican city-state, a basically honorary post he can hold while living elsewhere.

The Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works, underwent a sweeping restructuring last year, and Marcinkus' post as president was eliminated.

Warrants for the arrest of Marcinkus and two lay Vatican bank officials had been issued in 1987 after Italian prosecutors charged them with being accessories to the fraudulent bankruptcy of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy's largest private bank, which collapsed in 1982 with the disappearance of $1.3 billion.

But a non-interference treaty between Italy and the Vatican prevented the arrests from ever being carried out. The Vatican bank, a major shareholder in Banco Ambrosiano, agreed to pay $250 million to Banco Ambrosiano's creditors but denied any wrongdoing. The International Monetary Fund, which pumps billions of dollars into debt-plagued economies around the world, is taking on a $22.5 million project at home in Washington -- building a new church for an adjacent congregation that has only about 135 worshipers.

The IMF needs the land, which is about three blocks from the White House.

Some time in the next few weeks, the IMF expects to close a deal to acquire the quarter-acre property of the Western Presbyterian Church, bringing to a close negotiations that began in the 1960s.

In return, the fund is buying a new site, a few blocks away, where it will build Western Presbyterian a new, slightly larger home with a kitchen for feeding the homeless. The IMF will move the church's English Gothic sanctuary piece by piece and rebuild it as part of the new structure.

It will provide Western Presbyterian with an endowment, reported to be $4 million, to do such things as construct housing for the homeless and help two congregations in Ghana build churches.

Counting acquisition costs and an $8.5 million construction budget, the deal totals around $22.5 million.

Proposed saint:

Officials of the Roman Catholic Church began yesterday, All Saints Day, to unearth the bones of a former slave who is the first black American proposed for sainthood.

As about 100 people watched, Cardinal John O'Connor turned the first shovelful of dirt at the small cemetery of Old St. Patrick's Church in Little Italy. That's where Pierre Toussaint was buried in 1853 when he died at age 87.

Born into slavery in Haiti, Toussaint is now considered the founder of Catholic Charities because he helped the needy for 66 years before formal services for aid existed.

Toussaint was born in 1766 and brought to New York at age 21 by his French owners. Still enslaved, he became a leading hairdresser in the city and was allowed to keep some of his income.

When Toussaint's owner died, he left an impoverished widow and child. Toussaint secretly supported them for 20 years. The widow freed Toussaint from slavery just before she died in 1807.

Once free, he bought the freedom of slaves and lavished money on charities, including an orphanage and the city's first school for black children. He also entered quarantined sections of the city to help yellow fever victims. O'Connor described Toussaint as "an extremely holy man, a great humble man, who made a considerable amount of money. He used that money for the poor. He visited the poor, wherever they were. . . . He gave away all his money."

Church officials say the case for sainthood is boosted by one reported miracle: the recovery of a young Haitian with cancer who refused medical care and relied solely on prayers to Toussaint.

In 1989 the church began investigating and examining Toussaint's life, the first formal step if he is to be canonized. The process can take years.

Identifying Toussaint's remains is part of that process. If he is made a saint, his bones may be distributed to churches and other holy places.

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