In an effort to lift the veil from decades of secrecy and suspicion, the Vatican Bank has been opening its alarm-triggered doors to give bishops, ambassadors and journalists a rundown on how it operates.
This rare show of public relations savvy follows recent scandals such as the ousting of the bank’s president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, for incompetence and leaked documents hinting of financial mismanagement within the Vatican.
“We are trying to open the treasure chest up a bit and show we are working for transparency,” Paolo Cipriani, the bank’s director since 2003, told journalists.
The bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, is housed in a 15th-century tower, just inside the Vatican City gates, that used to be a prison and has stone walls 9-12 metres thick.
A Catholic New Service report said Vatican officials maintain it is not really a bank, because it is not a lending institution; its aim is not to make money but to further the mission of the universal Church.
It handles about 6 billion euros ($NZ9.5 billion) in assets spread out among 33,000 accounts. More than three-quarters of all account holders are in Europe, while just 7.3 per cent of accounts are at the Vatican.
The bank chooses conservative low-risk portfolios that avoid such activities as child exploitation, arms manufacturing and producing abortifacient pharmaceuticals. Investments are mostly in bonds and only 5 per cent are in the stock market, Cipriani said.
Not everyone can open a Vatican bank account. Clients must meet a series of strict criteria, going through rigorous background checks that get reviewed periodically to make sure their status is still valid, Cipriani explained.
A diocese or religious order could also open an account to support a member studying in Rome or to support a church project anywhere in the world, he said.
News category: World.