Francis orders Vatican audit including Sistine Chapel

Pope Francis has ordered an unprecedented external audit of the Vatican’s wealth, including St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

The audit will look at financial investments, real estate and cultural assets.

It will be performed by Price Waterhouse Coopers and will start immediately, said Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ.

Assets that would never be sold and thus have no market value – including St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and priceless art treasures by Michelangelo – will be included in financial statements.

But the Vatican is still considering whether and how they should be valued.

The decision to work with one of the world’s top four auditors continued “the implementation of new financial management policies and practices in line with international standards”,  Fr Lombardi said.

A Vatican financial statement this year revealed that the city-state’s departments had stashed away 1.1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) of assets that were not declared on any balance sheet.

The head of the economy secretariat, Cardinal George Pell, said last year that departments had “tucked away” millions of euros and followed “long-established patterns” in managing their affairs without reporting to any central accounting office.

At Cardinal Pell’s suggestion, Pope Francis has set up a “Working Party for the Economic Future”, which brings together the Secretariat of State, the Vatican Bank and other agencies.

The Pope has asked that group to address “the financial challenges and identify how resources can be devoted to the many good works of the Church, especially supporting the poor and vulnerable”, said Danny Casey from the Secretariat for the Economy.

The working group will study measures to cut costs and raise revenue as part of a long-term financial plan, Bloomberg reported.

“This will include comparing actual expenditure against budgets at a consolidated level, which is a new initiative,” Mr Casey said.

The working party held its first meeting last month.

Last year, Cardinal Pell said the Vatican’s total assets were worth more than US$3billion.


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