Pope moves against secretariat of state amid finance scandal

ROME (AP) : Pope Francis has given the Vatican secretariat of state three months to transfer all of its financial holdings to another Vatican office following its bungled management of hundreds of millions of euros in donations and investments that are now the subject of a corruption investigation.

Francis summoned the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, his deputy as well as the Vatican’s top finance officials for a meeting Wednesday and gave them a three-month deadline to complete the transfer, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

The Vatican released the letter that Francis wrote to Parolin on Aug. 25 in which he announced he was stripping the secretariat of state of its ability to independently manage the money.

Pope Francis celebrates a mass for deceased prelates in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool)

Francis cited the “reputational risks” incurred by the department’s previous investments in speculative operations that have cost the Holy See tens of millions of euros, some of it money from the Peter’s Pence donations from the faithful.

Francis’ decision was an embarrassing blow to the secretariat of state’s standing as the most powerful Holy See office, reducing it to essentially any other department that must propose a budget and have it approved and monitored by others. 

Its financial holdings are now to be held by the Vatican’s treasury office, known as APSA and incorporated into the Holy See’s consolidated budget, Francis wrote. The economy ministry will oversee spending.

The outcome is essentially that which was sought years ago by Cardinal George Pell, Francis’ first economy minister who clashed with the secretariat of state over his financial reform and transparency efforts. Pell had to abandon those efforts in 2017 to face trial for sexual abuse in his native Australia, but he was acquitted and returned triumphantly last month to Rome, where he was granted a well-publicized audience with Francis.

Francis moved against his own secretariat of state amid a year-long investigation by Vatican prosecutors into the office’s 350-million-euro investment into a London real estate venture.

Prosecutors have accused several officials in the department of abusing their authority for their involvement in the deal, as well several Italian middlemen of allegedly fleecing the Vatican of tens of millions of euros in fees.

By : NICOLE WINFIELD – AP News

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