.- A new report by an Italian publication accuses the U.S. National Security Agency of listening to the phone calls of Vatican officials and prelates, during a time period leading up to the conclave.
Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, told CNA on Oct. 30 that he is unaware of such activity and is “not worried.”
His comments come in response to allegations published by Italian weekly magazine “Panorama,” citing fears that “the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave.”
According to the Italian magazine, the NSA tracked incoming and outgoing phone calls from the Vatican and classified them as “leadership intentions,” “threats to the financial system,” “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights.”
The publication also pointed to “suspicions that the conversations of the future Pope may have been monitored,” as well as phone calls going in and out of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis and other clergy currently reside.
It referenced March 2013 U.S. State Department documents released by Wikileaks, which show that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – who would become Pope Francis – had been under surveillance for eight years, and was listed as a possible papal candidate.
“Bergoglio exemplifies the virtues of the wise pastor that many electors value,” said a 2005 telegram reportedly sent by the then-Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, D. Brent Hardt.
“Observers have praised his humility: he has been reluctant to accept honors or hold high office and commutes to work on a bus.”
Following cables reportedly discussed the relationship of the then-cardinal to the administration of President Nestor Kirchner, and the use of a Catholic priest’s connection to Argentina’s “Dirty War” to “undermine the moral authority of the Catholic Church and the cardinal.”
The latest accusations follow months of leaks about U.S. surveillance programs, which have drawn heated criticism both domestically and internationally. Last week, reports in a German publication alleged that the NSA has been tapping phone calls from German Chancellor Minster Angela Merkel.
The U.S. government has denied the latest claims regarding the Vatican.
“The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true,” said Vanee Vines, NSA spokeswoman, in a statement.