In an investigative report, The Guardian said that the portfolio had been “built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.”
Sources within the Holy See however said that was misleading and historically incorrect.
The Vatican received money from Mussolini’s government as recompense for the extensive properties it lost when the papal states were invaded and occupied by the Kingdom of Italy in the 1860s.
The money was paid out under the Lateran Accords of 1929, the agreement by which the Mussolini government recognised the Vatican City State as a sovereign nation and the Church gave up its claim to the former papal states.
It was compensation for the millions of pounds’ worth of property that the Church lost under the accord, such as the Quirinal Palace in Rome, a former papal palace which is today the residence of the Italian president.
The fact that the Vatican had property holdings around the world was no secret, said Father Federico Lombardi, its official spokesman.
“I’m bewildered – this article reveals nothing that was not known already,” he said on Tuesday.
“The existence of property investments by the Holy See, bought with money paid by the Italian State as compensation for expropriated assets, has been known for more than 80 years. “I’m amazed by the publication of this story – it doesn’t reveal anything new.”