VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican on Wednesday dismissed a report that Soviet agents bugged the dining room of the second most powerful man in the Vatican, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, in the 1980s.

News reports cited an Italian intelligence document claiming the bugs were planted by the Czechoslovak wife of Casaroli's nephew. Casaroli was Vatican secretary of state and retired in 1991.

``The story is so remarkable that it doesn't even merit a denial,'' papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Wednesday. ``But it's worth noting that Casaroli has no nephew with the name indicated'' in the report.

An Italian prosecutor, Rosario Priore, said recently the Italian secret service believed the Soviets in the 1980s had plans to ``discredit'' the Roman Catholic Church and pope, and even considered his assassination.

Claims that the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II were never proved.