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Two ex-managers of Vatican bank ordered to pay damages for mismanagement


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY  — A Vatican court found two former top managers of the Vatican bank liable for mismanagement and ordered an injunction for them to pay damages.

The sentence was announced Feb. 6 by the bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR in Italian. It did not specify the amount it is seeking in damages, but the Italian news agency ANSA said the damages the bank incurred totaled about 47 million euro (about $58 million). Read more »

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Vatican bank posts increased profits, continues review of accounts


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, showed a large jump in profits in 2014 as it continued to winnow its accounts.

The institute reported a net profit of 69.3 million euros ($75.5 million) in 2014 compared to a 2013 net profit of 2.9 million euros.

The bulk of the profit, 55 million euros, was given to the Holy See for its operating costs.

Releasing its annual report May 25, the institute said the increase “was mainly due to an increase in the net trading income from securities and to a decline in extraordinary operating expenses,” which included the costs of outside consultants.

The consultants were hired to help the institute reform practices and procedures in line with new Vatican regulations and international standards, including those that aim to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Msgr. Battista Ricca, the institute’s prelate, wrote in an introduction to the report that the ban’s purpose “is not to pursue the accumulation of wealth. Rather, it is to honestly and faithfully serve the universal mission of the church by supporting those who work in the vineyards of the Lord, often thanklessly and under dangerous circumstances, to feed, to educate, to heal and to permit the Gospel to be known.”

The annual report said just over half of its account holders are religious orders working around the world. Fourteen percent of the accounts belong to Vatican nunciatures across the globe; 9 percent are held by cardinals, bishops and priests; dioceses account for 8 percent of the clients; and the rest of the account holders are Vatican employees and religious education institutes.

In 2013, the institute tightened its guidelines for who can have or open an account. To comply with those guidelines and with international regulations, the bank undertook a thorough review of all account holders.

Since May 2013, the report said, the institute has ended 4,614 “customer relationships” and was in the process of closing nearly 300 more.


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Vatican bank issues detailed financial report


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — One week after publishing highlights of its 2013 financial statement, the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, released a 107-page, detailed financial report for the year.

The first statement, released July 8, said the institute’s net profit for 2013 was only 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) compared to 2012 net profits of 86.6 million euros ($117.7 million).

The detailed report released July 15 and published on the institute’s website, www.ior.va, is packed with charts, tables and explanations of the institute’s focus, its investment policies, the division of its assets and detailed information about its expenses, including contributions to employee pensions.

It also contains some curiosities:

• The main depository for the Vatican’s gold is the U.S. Federal Reserve, while medals and precious coins (valued at close to 9.9 million euros) are kept in IOR vaults. A “significant decline” in the price of gold meant that the value of the Vatican’s gold fell to 20 million euros in 2013 from almost 28.3 million euros in 2012.

• The bank’s officers have almost 3.2 million euros in four funds set up for charitable purposes, including one to support religious orders in missionary work. Only the “Fund for Holy Masses” reported distributing money in 2013; it gave out 59,000 euros.

• The institute is the sole owner of an Italian-registered company, SGIR, which has 21.7 million euros in equity. The report describes SGIR as a real estate company.

• Speaking of real estate, the report said the institute’s operating expenses included a “provision of 1 million euros payable to the owner of the building in which the IOR conducts business.” The bank is based in the 15th-century Tower of Nicholas V on the eastern edge of the Apostolic Palace.

• The bank has 250.7 million invested in external funds; 99 percent of the money is invested in funds that have their legal headquarters in Europe, while the remaining 1 percent are based in the United States.


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Pope decides Vatican bank will stay in business


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, accepting the recommendations of his international Council of Cardinals and other advisory groups, has decided the Vatican bank will continue to exist and has approved a plan to increase its transparency and accountability.

The Vatican press office issued a statement April 7 saying the pope “has approved a proposal on the future” of the Institute for the Words of Religion (IOR), the formal title of the bank. The Vatican, however, did not release details of the proposal.

In June 2013, Pope Francis established a commission to review the activities of the Vatican bank, asking the five commission members to study whether the bank was in harmony with the mission of the universal church.

During a news conference in July on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said some people had suggested the institute should be transformed into a “charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don’t know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission” studying the bank.

“Whatever it ends up being, whether a bank or a charitable fund, transparency and honesty are essential,” he said.

The pope spoke only a few weeks after the bank’s director and deputy director both resigned, following the previous month’s arrest of an account holder, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, on charges of fraud, corruption and slander. In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when new financial laws, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, went into effect.

While not providing details on proposed changes for the bank, the Vatican’s April 7 statement seemed intended to reassure the bank’s employees and clients that the institute would have a future.

“The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide,” the statement said. “The valuable services that can be offered by the institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry.”

The Vatican statement said Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy, has asked the bank’s president and management to finalize plans and procedures “to ensure that the IOR can fulfill its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See-Vatican City State.”

The plan, it said, will be given to Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, which is scheduled to meet in late April and again in July, and to the Council for the Economy, an international group of cardinals and lay experts appointed to set economic and financial policies for the Vatican and all its offices.

The Vatican statement also confirmed the continuing role of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority to ensure the Vatican bank cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

The “strict regulatory supervision and improvements in compliance, transparency and operations initiated in 2012 and substantially accelerated in 2013 are critical” for the bank’s future, the Vatican statement said.

At the end of 2012, the IOR had approximately 18,900 customers, about half of whom were religious orders. Vatican offices and nunciatures (Vatican embassies around the world) accounted for about 15 percent of the clientele, while about 13 percent of the accounts belonged to cardinals, bishops and priests, and 9 percent belonged to dioceses. Most of the remaining accounts were held by Vatican employees and religious education institutes, according to a report released by the bank in October.


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Pope replaces cardinals serving on Vatican bank oversight commission


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis replaced four cardinals serving on a five-person commission overseeing the Vatican bank.

The new members include Canadian Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto and Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

The Institute for the Works of Religion, popularly known as the Vatican bank, is located in the Bastion of Nicholas V in the Vatican. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is the only serving member the pope asked to stay on.

The Vatican made the announcement Jan. 15.

The responsibilities of the five-member Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal title of bank, include appointing the bank’s president, an appointment which then must be approved by the pope.

In addition to Cardinal Collins and Cardinal-designate Parolin, the new members are Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna and Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, the archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The four cardinals replace Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state; Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi, India; Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Domenico Calcagno, who is president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.

Pope Benedict XVI had confirmed the mandates of the five previous members just 11 months ago, five days after announcing his retirement in February.

Cardinal Bertone retired as Vatican secretary of state in October, just before his 79th birthday; the usual retirement age is 75. He had served as president of the cardinals’ oversight commission and had faced a number of criticisms in the press for mismanagement during his tenure as secretary of state.

Cardinal Tauran continues to serve on a separate five-person papal commission that is reviewing the activities and mission of the Vatican bank. Pope Francis created the commission in June 2013 as part of his larger efforts to reform the central offices of the church.

The Vatican has said that Pope Francis’ reforms are in continuity with a 1990 reform of the bank ordered by Blessed John Paul II and efforts begun by Pope Benedict in 2010 to better monitor all of the Vatican’s financial operations and make sure they reflect the latest European Union regulations and other international norms.

The Vatican bank had been marred by an image of secrecy and scandal for decades.


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Vatican bank reassures U.S. donors


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Trustees of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, which donates millions of dollars to papal charities each year, spent two hours at the Vatican bank April 20 and came away convinced that the institution’s bad press was undeserved, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

“I found it very reassuring,” the cardinal said in Rome. “The effort of the Holy See to be transparent is demonstrable.”

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