A US appeals court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by Holocaust survivors who alleged the Vatican bank accepted millions of dollars of their valuables stolen by Nazi sympathizers.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling that said the Vatican bank was immune from such a lawsuit under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign countries from being sued in US courts.
Holocaust survivors from Croatia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia had filed suit against the Vatican bank in 1999, alleging that it stored and laundered the looted assets of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies who were killed or captured by the Nazi-backed Ustasha regime that controlled Croatia.
They sought an accounting from the Vatican, as well as restitution and damages.
The court didn’t rule on the allegations. In its decision, the court said the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR, was a sovereign entity entitled to the protections of the foreign sovereign immunities act, and that therefore US courts had no jurisdiction.
The pope himself has been granted such protections in US courts hearing clerical sex abuse cases.
Jeffrey Lena, who represented the Vatican Bank in the case, said he was gratified with the ruling since the court decided not only that the IOR was a sovereign entity but that as such it was immune from US jurisdiction.
“In defending the lawsuit, the IOR did not challenge the allegations of the plaintiffs that they had suffered terrible losses at the hands of the Ustasha,” he said. “Rather the challenge was simply to the jurisdiction of US courts over the IOR.”
Jonathan Levy, who represents the survivors, said he thought he had sufficiently shown that the Vatican bank engaged in commercial activities in the US, which can serve as an exemption to the protections granted by the immunities act.
“The reason we’re disappointed is the court found that dealing in gold teeth from concentration camps was not a commercial act,” he said.
In its ruling, the court said that the Vatican banks’ US commercial activities were “too tangentially related to their legal claims to be considered the basis for the suit.”
Levy said he didn’t plan to appeal the judgment. The victims are also suing the Franciscans, the Roman Catholic order, on identical charges, and that portion of the lawsuit is going ahead, he said.
The survivors filed suit against the Vatican Bank a year after Swiss Banks agreed to pay some US$1.25 billion to Nazi victims and their families who accused the banks of stealing, concealing or sending to the Nazis hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Jewish holdings.
Many of the survivors named as plaintiffs in the suit live in the US.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies