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Vatican press statement highlights conflict over audit

April 26, 2016

The Vatican press office has released a statement justifying the decision to suspend an external audit of Vatican finances, and implicitly rebutting an earlier statement from the Secretariat for the Economy.

The April 26 statement from the Vatican press office said that the suspension of the audit does not imply criticism of the worked begun by the auditing firm of PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), not should it be understood as evidence of "the intention of one or more entities of the Holy See to block the reforms in progress." Instead, the statement claimed that the audit was suspended because of questions "regarding the meaning and scope of certain clauses of the contract and their methods of implementation." 

On April 23 the Secretariat for the Economy had issued its own statement defending the contract with PwC and insisting that Secretariat for the Economy had the proper authority to set the terms of the contract. The Secretariat of State-- which has been broadly perceived as balking at some of the financial reforms proposed by the Secretariat for the Economy-- had suggested that the PwC contract had not received the proper legal clearances. 

The new statement from the Vatican press office, which operates under the direction of the Secretariat of State, confirms observations that the two most powerful offices in the Vatican remain engaged in a struggle for control of the direction of financial reforms. 

The April 26 statement said that difficulties with the scope of the audit should be resolved "in an atmosphere of serenity and collaboration." The statement also emphasized that the external audit was expected to proceed after details were worked out. "The commitment to adequate economic and financial auditing remains a priority for the Holy See and the Vatican City State," it read.

Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa, commenting on the overt disagreement between the two Vatican offices, remarked that the major players-- Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State; Cardinal George Pell, the Secretary for the Economy; and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the Council for the Economy-- are all close collaborators who work together with Pope Francis on the Council of Cardinals. It is remarkable, Tornielli said, that their disagreements would become public in a series of conflicting public statements, rather than being resolved in private discussions. 

Tornielli also observed, regarding the suspension of the audit, that "it is hard to imagine the Secretariat of State suspending a contract worth millions, signed by the Prefect for the Economy, without the Pope's approval and after having informed him."

 
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