The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.
The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.
The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.
At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.
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The allegations follow a report on Cryptome, a website that gathers intelligence on surveillance and national security, which claimed the US intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy between Dec 10 2012 and Jan 8 January 2013.
The monitoring of communications, including emails, continued after Benedict’s resignation in February and encompassed the election of Pope Francis.
“It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave,” the weekly magazine said.
It added that there were “suspicions that the conversations of the future Pope may have been monitored”, but provided no hard evidence or quoted sources for the claim ( via telegraph.co.uk ).