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US high court allows suit against Vatican Bank January 17, 2006

The US Supreme Court has allowed a lawsuit against the Vatican Bank to go forward, despite arguments that the suit involved foreign-policy issues that are not within the jurisdiction of American federal courts.

In a decision announced on January 17, without comment or explanation, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals brought by the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan religious order after a federal appeals court ruled that a lawsuit brought by Holocaust survivors could proceed.

The suit, first filed in a California court in 1999, alleges that the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan order profited from assets seized by Nazi leaders from Jewish prisoners at concentration camps during World War II.

While denying any complicity with the Nazi war criminals, lawyers for the Vatican Bank and Franciscan order had also argued that the case was outside the jurisdiction of a US court because it involved issues of foreign policy. In 2003 a federal judge accepted that argument and dismissed the case. But upon appeal by the plaintiffs, an appeals court reinstated the lawsuit. The Supreme Court, by declining to hear the case, lets the latter decision stand.

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