Pope Francis personally initiated Vatican bank commission

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Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on June 5, 2013. Credit: Lauren Cater.

Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square on June 5, 2013. Credit: Lauren Cater.

VATICAN, June 26, 2013 (CNA).- The appointment of a new Pontifical Commission to advise Pope Francis about the Institute for Religious Works, usually called the Vatican bank, was desired expressly by the Pope local sources say.

This was “Pope Francis’ personal choice. It strays from the usual dynamic through which these decisions are taken,” a Vatican official speaking under the condition of anonymity told CNA on June 26.

The possibility of a reform, or even of an abolition of the Institute for Religious Works was raised during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals in March.

Once elected Pope, Francis followed some of the suggestions that emerged during the pre-conclave meetings. One example is the so-called “advisory board” of eight cardinals he will first meet with in October.

“The appointment of the commission,” explained the official, “is in order to understand if the Institute for Religious Works fulfills the mission of the Church in its current structure, or if it needs to be reformed.”

This is why the Pope issued the chirograph, an official document of Medieval origins. Through it, he appointed a “board” of five members to report to him about “the legal position and the activities of the Institute” in order to “harmonize the Institute with the universal mission of the Apostolic See.”

The Institute, also known as the IOR, is a sort of central body of the Holy See whose profits are at the Pope’s disposal. Its purpose is to provide for the protection and administration of moveable and immovable assets transferred or entrusted to the Institute and destined for religious works or charity.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a media briefing on June 26 that “the appointment of the pontifical commission is part of the process of thinking about a more general reform of the Curia” also “in view of the meeting of the commission of eight cardinals in October 1-3.”

The five members of the new Pontifical Referring Commission to the Institute for the Works of Religion include Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran. He is the only representative already officially part of the IOR, since he is one of the members of the commission of cardinals that oversees its actions.

It is noteworthy that the chirograph issued on June 24 also foresees the eventual conclusion of the commission and its work. It is not so to be considered a permanent body of the Institute for Religious Works.

Appointing commissions seems to be “a typical way Pope Francis approaches problems,” the Vatican official told CNA.

In fact, the commission will not interfere with the activity of the Institute for Religious Works. Fr. Lombardi stated that “this appointment cannot be considered a sort of compulsory administration.”

Pope Francis’ chirograph clearly asserts that “the administration of the Institute will keep on working on the basis of the Chirograph through which it was constituted.” That is, John Paul II’s original reformative document of 1990.

The Vatican source also explained that “the appointment of the commission does not interfere with the work of the Authority of Financial Information,” nor with “any possible reform of the Vatican financial system.”

A reform of the Vatican anti-money laundering system could be presumed on the basis of the Vatican decision to report its progress in responding to the Key and Core areas of recommended changes that the European Council’s financial oversight committee, Moneyval, said it should make. The committee had asked only for an update on the core areas.

The recommendations were the result of a voluntary evaluation that Moneyval carried out to help the Vatican comply with international standards on preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The Holy See will present his progress report to MONEYVAL on the 43 plenary meeting of the Committee, scheduled for December 9-13. (Andrea Gagliarducci)

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