The World Council of Churches, in a report issued prior to the pope's just-concluded trip to Africa, has accused the Swiss subsidiary of the Vatican Bank of participating in loans to South Africa.
The bank, in a statement, admitted that it has made loans to "clients" in that country but said that the loans were not destined for the South African government.
However, the council report, prepared by researcher Eva Militz, said the loans went to semistate enterprises such as the postal and telecommunications organization and the South African transport services, along with the city of Johannesburg.
The council's report, "Bank Loans to South Africa -- Mid-1982 to 1984," was prepared by Militz with funds granted by the council's program to combat racism.
The Vatican is not a member of the Geneva-based council, an ecumenical organization that is multidenominational and seeks to promote religious harmony.
Pope John Paul II, in his seven-nation tour through Africa, which ended last night, spoke out strongly against South Africa's racial segregation policies and the violence they have engendered in recent weeks.
The council report, however, said the Instituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), the Vatican Bank, has been lending actively to South Africa through its subsidiary, Banco di Roma per la Svizzera. IOR owns 51 percent of the bank, based in the southern Swiss city of Lugano, and the Banco di Roma the other 49 percent.
In a brief comment on the council report, the Lugano bank said its participation in loans to South Africa had been "modest" and confined to private clients. Militz's report identified recipients of these loans, mostly comanaged by West German banks, as quasi-public entities rather than private clients. She said in a foreword to her report that her information came from regularly published banking sources.
Militz's short-term contract with the council has ended, and she could not be reached for comment.
Banco di Roma per la Svizzera participated in five syndicated loans totaling 450 million West German marks ($161.2 million) in 1982-84, Militz said. Another three loans totaling 350 million marks ($125.4 million) were made to the same semipublic companies during the first few months of this year, she said.
The World Council of Churches has figured prominently in the antiapartheid movement during the past decade. Its program to combat racism produces regular studies on discrimination around the world.