New head of Vatican’s economy office needs pope’s strong backing to succeed

When Father Juan Antonio Guerrero was announced as the new head of the Secretariat for the Economy, a collective ‘huh?’ could probably be heard across Rome.

The Spanish Jesuit is not a Vatican veteran and has only been in Rome for about two years, where he oversaw the various Jesuit institutions located in and around the Italian capital.

He had previously been serving in Mozambique.

There had been speculation a layperson would get the role, with the name of Claudia Ciocca, the current Director of Control and Vigilance of the Secretariat for the Economy, being floated in the press.

Guerrero’s appointment came as a complete shock.

He arrives at the Secretariat at a time of disarray.

It has been without an effective head for two years, since its former prefect, Cardinal George Pell, returned to Australia in 2017 to fight charges of historic child abuse.

Even before Pell left the scene, Vatican watchers felt the cardinal was being increasingly side-lined, and that the Australian’s efforts to strongarm other Vatican offices into transparency and cost-cutting had failed.

Also in 2017, the Vatican’s first auditor general, Libero Milone, was fired after being accused of spying on the dealings of his superiors; he later claimed the Vatican’s “old guard” pushed him out to protect themselves from the effects of financial reforms.

This summer, a series of financial scandals have rocked the Vatican.

In October, the Vatican Gendarmes raided the offices of the powerful Secretariat of State.

According to the Financial Times, the raid was connected to a $200 million shadowy property investment in London.

When the Italian newsweekly L’Espresso leaked a memo from the Vatican police barring five employees from entering Vatican territory, it led to the resignation of the long-serving head of the gendarmes, Domenico Giani.

The London deal was overseen by then-Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, at the time the pope’s “substitute,” or chief of staff. Becciu is now a cardinal, and the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Vatican is also facing a huge budget deficit, made worse by a drop in donations from the faithful in response to the sexual abuse scandal.

In other words, it wasn’t too soon to finally get a hand on the rudder of the Vatican’s main financial office.

But the question is, how firm a hand will Guerrero be able to apply? Continue reading

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