Pope Francis has approved a new direction for the 'Vatican bank' as it seeks to improve transparency and compliance with international guidelines, the Vatican has announced, reports RNS/Ucanews.
The bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works (Italian: Istituto per le Opere di Religione - or IOR), was founded in 1942 to manage funds for Catholic institutions, Vatican employees, and clergy at a time when Church assets were being seized by the Nazis - but it has been plagued by allegations of money laundering and Mafia links for decades.
The statement on Monday ended months of speculation about the troubled bank’s future and endorsed a proposal developed by Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy.
'The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide,' the Vatican said in a statement released on behalf of the Pope. German financier Ernst von Freyberg, president of the IOR, will work with bank management to finalize changes that fulfill the Vatican’s new financial structures, the statement said.
The Pope identified the bank as a key target of reforms after his election last year and had not ruled out its closure if it was unable to conform to international standards of transparency and accountability.
Last year the bank published details of its accounts for the first time and a team of experts from the Promontory Financial Group, a regulatory compliance consulting firm, began screening the 19,000 accounts held by the bank looking for signs of money laundering and other crimes.
The Vatican bank has struggled to clean up its image since Roberto Calvi, dubbed 'God’s banker' because of his dealings with it, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in a suspected Mafia killing.
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