Pope Francis

29  December 2020

Pope Francis has given the Vatican secretariat of state three months to transfer all of its financial holdings to Vatican Treasury. Pope’s decree was in the form of a Motu Proprio (Apostolic Letter to to the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. Use Google Translate to view in English). In his Apostolic Letter, Pope states: ” A better organization of the administration, controls and supervision of the economic and financial activities of the Holy See to ensure transparent and efficient management and a clear separation of competences and functions, represents a fundamental point in the reform of the Curia.”

Hitherto all donations to the pope including the Peter’s Pence collections from the faithful had been managed by the secretariat of state. There has been allegations of mismanagement of donations and investments by the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

Prosecutors after an 18-month investigation into the office’s €350 million investment in a luxury residential building in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, and in a Malta-based investment vehicle, Centurion Global Fund, headed by the Vatican’s longtime external money manager and other speculative funds. According to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Centurion invested in such ventures as the “Rocketman” film on Elton John as well as a holding company headed by Lapo Elkann, one of the more flamboyant members of Italy’s Agnelli clan.

The prosecutors have accused several officials in the department of abusing their authority for their involvement in the deal, as well as several Italian middlemen of allegedly fleecing the Vatican of tens of millions of euros in fees. The scandal has exposed the incompetence of the Vatican’s monsignors in managing money, since they signed away voting shares in the deal and agreed to pay exorbitant fees to Italians who were known in business circles for their shady dealings.

The secretariat of state has been the most powerful office in the Holy. The Pope’s present move must be a severe blow to the department which is now reduced to the status of any other department that must propose a budget and have it approved and monitored by others.

Pope’s move is essentially what was sought years ago by Cardinal George Pell, the first economy minister. He clashed with the secretariat of state over his financial reforms and efforts to wrest control of the department’s off-the-books funds. He had to abandon those reforms as he had to face trial for sexual abuse in his native Australia, but he was acquitted of those charges in Australia.

The Holy See is facing a major cash crunch as ticket sales from the Vatican Museums, disappeared this year due to coronavirus closures. The Holy See last year narrowed its budget deficit from €75 million to €11 million.

Channel News Asia reported.

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