Vatican’s $1.5 billion unreported assets disclosed

The Vatican has more than US$1.5 billion in assets that it didn’t previously know it had, bringing its total assets to more than US$3billion.

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s secretary for the economy, told cardinals last week that $0.5 billion in assets had been purposefully excluded from a 2013 overall balance sheet.

And US$1billion should have been included in that report but wasn’t.

These omissions were not because of illegal activity, Cardinal Pell told Crux’s John Allen.

Rather, they were because of an overly compartmentalised and unwieldy Vatican reporting system that allowed significant pockets of assets to go undetected.

The $US1.5billion figure is several times larger than an estimate in December.

Cardinals were also told the Vatican’s real estate holdings may be undervalued by a factor of four.

But the Vatican’s pension fund is looking at a projected deficit of nearly US$1billion, although the fund is secure for the next 10-15 years.

Cardinal Pell said elderly cardinals were assured “their pensions are secure”, but warned the shortfall could be even higher due to interest rate trends.

He said the latest financial reports presented to cardinals is the first time “we’ve had a comprehensive and, we believe, accurate picture about what’s going on economically”.

But even now he’s not sure that all assets are yet fully accounted for.

Cardinal Pell said the “clean-up effort” on the Vatican’s finances initially drew “enthusiastic opposition”, especially from some of the Vatican’s other traditional centres of power such as the Secretariat of State.

But that opposition dimmed after Pope Francis approved a new set of procedures for money management last October, he said.

“We have to make it terribly difficult to return to waste and inefficiency and some measure of corruption,” Cardinal Pell said.

An independent auditor general reporting directly to the Pope is another reform on the horizon.

Cardinal Pell promised that later this year “for the first time ever in Vatican history”, the various departments will be providing quarterly reports comparing expenditures to budgets.

American Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said a move to have one consolidated budget for the entire Vatican is encountering significant resistance from forces which feel threatened by reform.


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