Pope Francis has named a commission to review the activities and legal structure of the Vatican bank. The Institute of Religious Works (IOR) was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII and has been plagued by scandals since its inception. The bank has 7.1 billion USD in assets and 19,000 accounts held by Vatican employees, priests, nuns and charitable organizations.
Prosecutors from the city of Salerno recently placed a senior Vatican financial official under investigation for suspected money laundering. A Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed Monsignor Nunzio Scarano had been suspended temporarily from the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See on Wednesday.
Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca as the bank’s interim prelate on June 15th, a position which had been vacant since 2011 when Monsignor Pioppo left to become the Vatican’s ambassador to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Reform of the Vatican bank and bureaucracy was demanded by American cardinals in the meetings prior to March’s papal enclave.
The commission of inquiry will include four senior clerics and Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon. Italian cardinal Raffaele Farina, French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Spanish bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru and US cleric Monsignor Peter Bryan Wells will join Glendon in investigating the bank’s activities to “allow for a better harmonization with the universal mission of the Apostolic See.”
In July of 2012 MONEYVAL published a report on the Institute for Religious Works and the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) which gave Vatican finances a passing grade; but recommended improved oversight capabilities for regulators. In one of Pope Benedict XVI’s final acts, German financier Ernst von Freyberg was appointed head of the IOR on February 15th. Freyberg has said one of his most important jobs is to get “this shadow away” from the bank’s reputation. Freyberg’s predecessor, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted with a “no confidence” vote in May 2012.