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Pope appoints special commission to study Vatican bank

June 26, 2013

Pope Francis has established a special commission to study the working of the Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), “to allow its better harmonization with the mission of the universal Church.”

The Vatican announced on June 26 that the Pontiff has appointed a 5-member commission to “gather accurate information on the Institute's legal position and various activities.” The commission has already begun its study, the Vatican said.

The operations of the IOR have been a major source of concern for Church leaders in recent months. In 2010 the Vatican instituted a series of reforms intended to bring the bank into compliance with tough new European regulations against money-laundering. But the IOR has continued to draw criticism from Italian banking regulators.

The Vatican bank was reportedly one of the topics mentioned frequently by cardinals arguing for reforms at the Vatican in the days before the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Especially in light of the new Pontiff’s frequent emphasis on the need for the Church to embrace poverty, Vatican-watchers have been predicting a thorough reform of the IOR.

The June 26 announcement from the Vatican said, however, that the IOR would continue work under its current charter until further notice. The bank’s employees are directed to cooperate fully with the new commission’s investigation. The commission is designed to provide information and guidance to the Holy See, the Vatican said, and once its work is completed it will be dissolved.

The papal commission is chaired by Cardinal Raffaele Farina, the retired Vatican archivist and librarian. The other members are:

  • Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, who had previously been the Secretary for Relations with States, the Vatican’s chief foreign-policy officer;
  • Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which is the Vatican’s panel for canon law;
  • Msgr. Peter Bryan Wells, the American assessor for the Secretariat of State, who will serve as secretary to the new commission; and
  • Mary Ann Glendon, the Harvard Law School professor and former US ambassador to the Holy See.

The Vatican announcement indicated that the commission would examine the legal status of the IOR—involving both civil law and the Church’s own canon law—as well as its financial dealings. The announcement said that the study would be made “in the more general context of the reforms that should be carried out by the Institutions that give aid to the Apostolic See.”


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