Vatican financial reform efforts continue amid scandals and deficit
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – As Vatican finances have suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic and large-scale financial scandals have crippled the credibility of the church around the world, Pope Francis and his team of Reformers continue their efforts to promote transparency in the institution’s strained finances.
In a lengthy interview with Vatican media on Monday, November 8, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of the Heritage Administration of the Holy See, or APSA, discussed Pope Francis‘ plan to clean up investments and real estate from the Vatican. . The Vatican faces a loss of $ 100 million for a 2019 investment in a property in London, currently at the center of a financial scandal.
“The Pope’s desire for centralized financial management is only the last part of a much larger and more important process,” said Galantino.
Efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances began with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and intensified under Francis. In December 2019, Pope Francis stripped the powerful Vatican Secretariat of State of its financial assets, placing them under the authority of APSA, which already manages the Vatican’s investment portfolio and real estate.
While admitting that the decision “increased the workload” of APSA, Galantino said the centralization of the Vatican’s financial oversight creates “transparency and control over everything that involves management and administration. resources of the Holy See “.
APSA does not have the best track record in terms of transparency and accountability. It published a summary of its annual budget for the first time in July 2021, reporting a loss of profit of more than $ 25 million in 2019. The Vatican’s finances as a whole have been “heavily affected by the economic crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic ”, according to the 2021 budget of the Holy See, which expects a deficit of 60 million dollars.
Through recent and future reforms, the Vatican plans to “improve real estate services and performance,” through the maintenance and renovation of its properties, Galantino said. “The rest is used to contribute to the expenses of the Holy See and therefore to the Pope’s mission. “
The APSA budget was released just days before the Vatican mega-trial of 10 people, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, accused of financial embezzlement in connection with the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury property in London.
Once the third Vatican prelate, Becciu vocally declared his innocence under the London Accord. Through his defense attorney on November 4, the cardinal rejected the charges “in light of his own honesty and loyal service to the Holy Father”, condemning “fraud, exploitation and personal attacks disconnected from historical reality “.
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Between 2014 and 2018, the Vatican purchased an office building in London using more than $ 400 million in funds intended to support the Pope’s charities, known as Peter’s Pence. Vatican prosecutors argued in court that the institution had been swindled from millions of people by entrepreneurs Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi, with the help of lay people and clerics working in the Vatican.
“Peter’s Pence is a contribution from local churches to support the mission of the Holy Father and his charities,” said Galantino, explaining that his aim is also to support the Roman Curia and the nearly 5,000 Vatican employees since the City of the Vatican has no taxes.
The Vatican is selling the London property at the center of the scandal for around $ 230 million to private equity group Bain Capital, incurring a loss of more than $ 100 million, the Financial Times reported.
The Vatican trial has shed light on the corruption and lack of transparency that have always characterized the finances of the Catholic city-state, but questions remain about its effectiveness in holding those responsible for the massive economic loss to account.
At the second trial hearing on October 6, Vatican judges ordered prosecutors to turn over the missing evidence to defense attorneys and to withdraw some of the evidence gathered during the investigation. The ruling dealt a further blow to Vatican prosecutors, who were reprimanded by a British judge in March for making “appalling” false statements in litigation against Torzi over London property.
In mid-October, Italy’s highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation, lifted financial restrictions imposed by the court in Torzi, which had been presented by Vatican prosecutors.
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