It was not just German Chancellor Angela Merkel and 34 other world leaders whom the U.S. National Security Agency spied on. Even the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City, and its head, Pope Francis, were not spared, according to Panorama magazine.
A child plays as Pope Francis leads a special audience with families at St. Peter Square in Vatican. October 29, 2013.
The magazine, which did not cite its source of the claim, said the interception of phone calls made in and out of the Rome residence where the cardinals stayed was made before the election of a new pope in March.
Possibly included in the alleged NSA spying was then Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio who eventually was elected in the conclave on March 13 and became pontiff.
However, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said he was not aware of the issue and has no concerns about it.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines also denied the claim, saying, "The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."
However, NSA denials are held suspect since even U.S. President Barack Obama had denied to Ms Merkel that the US spied on Germany.
The magazine claimed the NSA performed wholesale surveillance on records of 46 million calls made between December 2012 and January 2013. But more than just record collection, in the case of Vatican, the report said that calls were intercepted and classified into four categories as: leadership intentions, threats to the financial system, foreign policy objectives and human rights. The monitoring was in relation to the naming of Ernst von Freyberg as head of the Vatican bank.
Documents by WikiLeaks said the US was tracking then Cardinal Bergoglio as early as 2005 and identified him as a papabili.
"Bergoglio exemplifies the virtues of the wise pastor that many voters value. Observers emphasize his humility," the LA Times quoted the cable from the U.S. embassy.