A former Papal Nuncio left Ireland under a cloud after vast sums of South American funded money were found in his bank account.

Archbishop Gaetano Alibrandi left Dublin and the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1989 after investigations into his financial affairs.

The Irish Times reports that the money originated in South America where Alibrandi had served as Papal Nuncio to Chile from 1961.

He led the Chilean delegation to the second Vatican Council, which opened in October 1962.

During a 20 year term in office in Ireland, from 1969 to ’89, Dr Alibrandi was involved in the appointment of 26 Catholic bishops.

The story came to light when former diplomat Sean Donlon spoke on Friday at University College Cork as part of the Dr Garret FitzGerald Memorial Lecture series.

A former secretary general at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Donlon revealed the circumstances behind Alibrandi’s departure in an interview with the Irish Times.

Donlon said: “It came to our attention at the department that a substantial amount in three bank accounts in Dublin held by the Archbishop were way in excess of what was needed to run the Nunciature. The source of the money appeared to be South America.

“Because of its size, we thought it appropriate to ask if the funds belonged to the Holy See.”

The report states that when contacted for an answer, Dr Alibrandi ‘quickly answered no’ and claimed that they belonged to family.

he Cork lecture heard that when it was pointed out to the Papal Nuncio that the money was then liable under Irish taxation law to Dirt, he said he would ‘retire shortly and the accounts would be closed’.

Dr Alibrandi returned to his native Sicily shortly afterwards where he died in 2003 at the age of 89.

Donlon also revealed that Dr Alibrandi was a noted Provisional IRA sympathiser during his time in Ireland and had ‘a very testy relationship’ with Prime Ministers Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald.

He frequently intervened in disputes between the government and the Provisional IRA and also intervened in 1977 when an attempt was made to allow mixed marriages in Ireland.