Pope Francis ends Italian control over Vatican’s financial watchdog

By Josephine McKenna| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
News Vatican

c. 2014 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Thursday (June 5) dismissed the five-member board that oversees the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, an abrupt move that will give the financial operation more of an English-speaking focus.

The Vatican said the pope named five experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and Italy to replace those who were removed from the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See’s internal regulatory agency.

All five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016. The sole American on the new board is Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Two of the new five members are Italian.

The pope has taken a hard line on cleaning up the Vatican finance system, and he had been urged to appoint professionals with international expertise to work with the head of the AIF, Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer. Francis has taken a personal interest in the scandal-tainted Vatican bank, or Institute for Religious Works.

According to a report by the Italian news agency ANSA, two senior officials at the bank have also been eased into early retirement after reports by two separate ad hoc committees appointed by Francis to study Vatican finances.

Officials have now finished screening the accounts of the bank’s 19,000 clients and are continuing to complete checks on the “visibility” of account holders and their transactions.

At the same time, Australian Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney now in charge of the new Secretariat for the Economy, is closely involved in many of the changes at the bank. He brought on Danny Casey, his business manager in Sydney, to handle planning and project management. Casey told priests in Sydney that his office “will be central to the establishment of new policies, systems and practices.”