Financial reforms are working, Pope insists, despite scandals
November 26, 2019
Pope Francis defended the Vatican’s handling of recent financial scandals, yet criticized the performance of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, in an exchange with reporters who accompanied him on his return flight from Japan on November 26.
The Pope emphasized that an October raid on several Vatican offices had been initiated by the Vatican’s own prosecutor. “It shows the Vatican administration now has the resources to shed light on the bad things that happen internally,” he said. He argued that the incident illustrates the success of financial reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI and continued under his own leadership.
The Pope rejected criticism that funds from the Peter’s Pence collection should not have been invested in a London real-estate deal. He explained that such funds are always invested prudently, to earn some return until they are used for charitable purposes. “It’s always safe and always moral,” he said of these investments.
However, in the case that prompted the October raid, the Vatican’s auditor detected a problem, the Pope said. He revealed that he had personally authorized the raid after being briefed on the problem.
While maintaining that Vatican employees who have been accused of misconduct are entitled to the presumption of innocence, the Pope also said that the Financial Information Authority (AIF), which was set up to ensure proper accounting for Vatican transactions, had apparently not fulfilled its role. “It seems that it was the AIF that did not control others’ crimes,” he said.
Rene Bruelhart, the president of the AIF, stepped down last week. (Bruelhart has said that he resigned; Pope Francis told reporters that Bruelhart had not been aware that his term of office ended on November 19.) The Pope said that he has already found a replacement—“a magistrate, highly esteemed at juridical and economic levels, nationally and internationally”—who would be identified soon after the Pope’s return to Rome.
Critics of the Vatican’s financial affairs have offered a very different perspective on the recent scandals, suggesting that the AIF has been made a scapegoat after uncovering irregularities in the financial transactions of the Secretariat of State.
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