The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the phone calls of the future Pope Francis and other Vatican officials leading up to the papal conclave, according to an Italian magazine, though the spy agency has denied the report.
Panorama, an Italian weekly, reports that the agency monitored calls made by Catholic cardinals and bishops both before and during this year's papal conclave, according to The Telegraph. Calls to and from the place where Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, resided during the conclave were among those that were reportedly monitored.
The article also claims the NSA intercepted calls pertaining to the election of the head of the Vatican bank, among other things. The agency is said to have divided the information it intercepted from the Vatican into four categories: "leadership intentions," "foreign policy objectives," "threats to financial systems" and "human rights."
Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, released a brief statement about the report.
"My response regarding the article on Panorama on the alleged wiretapping is that we don't know anything about this matter and in any case, we have no worries about it," his statement reads, according to Zenit.org.
NSA Spokesperson Vanee' Vines says the claims made by the magazine are false.
"The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican," Vines wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times. "Assertions that NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."
Panorama's report comes just days after the European Union warned the U.S. that spying on its governments could negatively impact their common fight against terrorism. A delegation from the European Union visited the White House on Wednesday to discuss the NSA controversy, according to Politico, as did a delegation from Germany following reports that the NSA tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone.
Merkel "views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally," her spokesman said in a recent statement. "Between close friends and partners, as Germany and the U.S. have been for decades, there should not be such monitoring of the communications of a government leader. This would be a grave breach of trust. Such practices should be immediately stopped."