Pope Francis issued an edict Sunday night reorganizing the Vatican’s scandal-plagued bank accounts, with an eye towards reforming the Vatican’s notoriously unscrupulous financial practices.
The edict, called a Motu Proprio, seeks to add clarity and permanence to the Vatican’s financial system, which has been altered significantly since former Pope Benedict XVI’s reform efforts.
The major financial force at the Vatican is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which supervises the Holy See’s vast real estate holdings and investments while controlling payroll and purchasing, Crux explains.
However, years of scandal, including money laundering and embezzlement, brought the APSA to disrepute. Pope Francis stripped APSA of its asset management and purchasing powers in 2014, and gave them to another Vatican department, the Secretariat of the Economy (SPE), directed by George Cardinal Pell.
Many of the old line Italian bloc that dominates the internal politics of the Vatican pushed back against Pell, an Australian, and felt he was leveraging his new authority as part of a much wider power grab. The pope’s edict is something of a victory for Vatican careerists resisting reform — Sunday’s edict is essentially a total countermand of his 2014 decision. (RELATED: Pope Francis Announces Mother Teresa Will Become Saint)
Beyond the political ramifications, the order has practical motivations. The pontiff’s 2014 order effectively left the SPE in charge of the administration and oversight of Vatican finances, leaving no meaningful internal controls. By restoring control over real estate and purchasing to the APSA, the Vatican can ensure management and oversight are handled by two separate entities.
“The fundamental principle at the base of the reforms in this area, and in particular at the base of this Motu Proprio, is that of ensuring the clear and unequivocal distinction between control and vigilance, on the one hand, and administration of assets, on the other,” the Holy See Press Office said.
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