If you're planning a trip to the Vatican, take lots of cash — and be sure to get it outside the imposing iron gates of St. Peter's Square. As of last Wednesday, the tiny state cannot accept payments by plastic, and its ATMs have been disabled as well.

The Vatican's cash-only status stems from a decision by the Bank of Italy, which provides banking services for the Vatican, that it will no longer process financial transactions from the Holy See due to its non-compliance with new money-laundering controls, said a New York Times blog.

"The Bank of Italy could not give the authorization because the Vatican, apart from not respecting money-laundering regulation, did not have the legal prerequisites," a source close to the Bank of Italy told Reuters news service.

The Times quoted a report by European financial watchdog Moneyval that said the Vatican failed to meet nearly half the criteria for financial transparency. Over the past two decades, Vatican banking practices have been the subject of financial scandals and legal imbroglios.

Pope Benedict XVI has acted to remedy the situation, and has hired René Brülhart, a Swiss anti-money laundering expert, to oversee the effort. There has been no indication of when ATM/debit and credit card processing might be restored at the Vatican.

For more on this topic, visit the regulatory issues research center.

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