Vatican Bank issues unusual but ‘unsurprising’ report

As the Vatican Bank took the unusual step of publishing an annual report for the first time in its 125-year history, its president said the most surprising thing was “how unsurprising it is”.

“You see a rather conservatively managed financial institution safeguarding assets, investing in very conservative investments like government bonds and bank deposits,” said Ernst von Freyberg.

“And you will see an institution highly capitalised. At the end of last year our equity ratio was 15 per cent, which is way above what comparable financial institutions would have.”

Publication of the report was part of a reform programme aimed at transparency and compliance with industry standards following allegations of money-laundering and other dubious transactions.

The report shows that the bank — officially known as the Institute for Religious works — holds about $NZ11.5 billion in assets, and realised a profit of $NZ141 million in 2012, of which $NZ89 million was contributed to the Holy See.

The bank said it had about 18,900 customers at the end of 2012, about half of whom were religious orders.

Vatican offices and nunciatures (Vatican embassies around the world) accounted for about 15 per cent of the clientele, while about 13 per cent of the accounts belonged to cardinals, bishops and priests, and 9 per cent belonged to dioceses.

Most of the remaining accounts were held by Vatican employees and religious education institutes. The report said there are no secret or numbered accounts.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said the bank has closed 900 accounts held by individuals or groups that didn’t pass a first round of review related to transparency in the origin or movement of funds.

It also said the bank is closing all accounts held by foreign diplomatic missions. Of the 180 nations that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the newspaper said at least 20 have accounts at the bank.

As for the future of the bank, von Freyberg said “the Holy Father will decide later this year or next year in which exact direction he wants to send us”.


National Catholic Reporter

Catholic News Service

Vatican Radio

Image: National Catholic Reporter

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