Pope Francis Moves to 'Internationalize' Vatican Finances: Progress on professionalization and oversight in Rome continue

Efforts to professionalize Vatican financial services and oversight of same continued today as Pope Francis dismissed the all-Italian five-member board that oversees the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, an abrupt move that will give the financial operation more of an English-speaking focus.

According to a Vatican statement, the pope named five experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and Italy to replace those who were removed from the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See’s internal regulatory agency.

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The five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016. The sole American on the new board is Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Two of the new five members are Italian.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, promoted Tommaso Di Ruzza, an Italian, to be the agency's "ad interim" vice-director. A former official at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Di Ruzza had been an assistant at the financial authority, which is directed by Rene Brulhart.

The pope has taken a hard line on cleaning up the Vatican finance system, and he had been urged to appoint professionals with international expertise to work with the head of the AIF, Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer. Francis has taken a personal interest in the scandal-tainted Vatican bank, or Institute for Religious Works.

According to a report by the Italian news agency ANSA, two senior officials at the bank have also been eased into early retirement after reports by two separate ad hoc committees appointed by Francis to study Vatican finances.

Officials have now finished screening the accounts of the bank’s 19,000 clients and are continuing to complete checks on the “visibility” of account holders and their transactions.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney now in charge of the new Secretariat for the Economy, is closely involved in many of the changes at the bank and is moving new personnel into new positions in Rome. Cardinal Pell has been empowered by Pope Francis to reform the financial and economic structures of the Vatican. The Business Manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Danny Casey, has accepted a new role at the secretariat. Casey will lead a newly established Project Management Office. The PMO will coordinate much of the planning and project delivery work of the secretariat. Casey told priests in Sydney that his office “will be central to the establishment of new policies, systems and practices.”

"I was a little taken back when the opportunity to move to Rome was presented to me,” Casey told media back in Australia. “I do feel privileged to be asked to serve the church in this new setting and I am confident that I can make a significant contribution to the reforms being asked by Pope Francis and the work being undertaken by Cardinal Pell and all in the Secretariat."

The new Project Management Office will be staffed by members of the Vatican Curia as well as a number of consultants, contractors and advisors. Casey was appointed Business Manager of the Archdiocese by Cardinal Pell in 2003 - the first lay person to hold the role. During this time he has assisted in the development of strategies and systems for long term financial planning as well as policies and practices to ensure the optimum use of assets.

Pope Benedict XVI established the Financial Intelligence Authority in late 2010 to monitor Vatican financial operations and ensure they met international norms against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In November 2013, Pope Francis revised the agency's statutes. He clarified the roles of the authority's president, board of directors and director, and specified that it would have two separate offices: one concerned with supervision and regulation, the other with financial intelligence.

New finance laws passed in October formally expanded the competence of the Financial Intelligence Authority by including the task of "preventive" vigilance, which involves ensuring the proper organization and trustworthiness of all Vatican financial operations.

The new members, named for a five-year term, are:

-- Juan C. Zarate, a U.S. senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School. He is also works as a national security and financial integrity consultant, once serving the U.S. government from 2005 to 2009 as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

-- Maria Bianca Farina, a top Italian administrator at the Italian postal system's investment and insurance divisions, Poste Vita and Poste Assicura. She is an expert in tax audits and investment management.

-- Marc Odendall, a Swiss-based philanthropist and chairman of the Odendall Foundation. A former financier who has worked at JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, he has served as chairman of the International Ethics Board of EDHEC Business School and is a board member of the Caritas in Veritate Foundation.

-- Joseph Yubaraj Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers of the Republic of Singapore and of Tiger Airways Holdings. He formerly served as chairman of Singapore Airlines and of the Singapore stock exchange.

 
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Rowan Webb
1 year 4 months ago
It's good to see that someone is being accountable for the finance system inside the Vatican. Considering how influential the group of religious leaders are across the world, it is right that they should set the precedent and the standard for how things should be carried out. It'll be controversial at first if anything is found out in the beginning, but once the moneys have been balanced and all the discrepancies ironed out, there's nothing more to be said about how much more trustworthy they will be then. http://financesmarter.com.au/blog/

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