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New changes looming at the Vatican bank?

July 01, 2014

New major changes at the Vatican bank, including the replacement of the institution’s president, will be announced imminently, according to media reports.

John Allen of the Boston Globe, citing informed sources at the Vatican, said that Ernst von Freyberg will soon leave his post as president of the Institute for Religious Works (IOR). The change could come within a week, Allen reported.

The Vatican has not commented on the reports, but a Reuters story, citing anonymous Vatican sources, essentially confirmed Allen’s report.

Ernst von Freyburg, a German lawyer, was appointed president of the IOR in February 2013. He replaced Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was abruptly ousted by the IOR’s board in May 2012, at a time when the Vatican bank was under severe critical scrutiny because European banking regulators had found that the institution was vulnerable to money-laundering because of inadequate financial safeguards.

The IOR has been a major focus of efforts by Pope Francis to reform the Vatican. Two papal commissions have examined the bank in particular and Vatican financial affairs in general. The Financial Information Authority (AIF), the agency established in 2010 to supervise all Vatican financial affairs, recently completed a first-ever audit of the IOR.

Vatican sources cited in the Boston Globe and Reuters reports differed as to whether von Freyburg’s expected departure was a normal transition, with the German executive having fulfilled his mission in the process of reforming the IOR, or whether he was being ousted because of persistent complaints about the bank. The Italian weekly L’Espresso recently published a report that Msgr. Battista Ricca, the personal representative of Pope Francis to the IOR, had been critical of von Freyburg’s leadership.

An official announcement about new changes at the IOR could be made at the conclusion of this week’s meetings of the Council of Cardinals, which run through July 4.


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