Future of Vatican Bank is in question

A question mark hangs over the future of the Vatican Bank as Pope Francis is reported to be considering suggestions from two cardinals that it be closed.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, tipped as a possible Vatican Secretary of State, told The Sunday Times that Francis would consider appeals made by Cardinals Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and John Onaiyekan of Nigeria on the eve of his election for the bank to be scrapped.

National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen said there is talk in Rome that the bank — formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion — may soon be placed under the control of the government of the Vatican City State.

The Sunday Times report quoted Archbishop Celli as saying the Pope would be guided by a desire for “transparency . . . and faithfulness to international laws or rules in this field”, including those on money-laundering.

“The Pope will consider some suggestions because during the general congregations [the formal meetings that preceded the conclave] some cardinals were intervening about the problems of the IOR,” said Archbishop Celli, who has known Francis since 1979, when they served together in Argentina.

Before the conclave Cardinal Onaiyekan said the bank “is not essential to the ministry of the Pope, who is the successor to St Peter”. He added, “I don’t know if St Peter had a bank.”

The Sunday Times quoted one “influential Vatican official” as saying the abolition of the bank was under discussion but there was doubt over what might replace it. “We need something, because the Holy See’s own funds cover a bit more than half its budget, and the IOR’s revenues cover part of that deficit,” he said.

Set up in 1942, the bank has 33,000 accounts and about $NZ7 billion in assets, all run from a former Vatican prison building. Most of the money belongs to dioceses, religious orders and Catholic organisations, which use the bank to transfer funds around the world.


The Sunday Times

National Catholic Reporter

Los Angeles Times

Image: Spiegel Online

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