Cardinals council zeroes-in on Vatican management, finances

Cardinals greet each other Nov. 24, 2012 in St. Peter's Basilica. Credit: CNA.

On the second of four days of meetings, the council of eight cardinals discussed the management of the Vatican State and of the Curia, including the so-called “Vatican Bank,” whose process of reform is ongoing.

Pope Francis, along with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is involved in the meetings with the group of cardinals who he selected last year to help in Church reform efforts.

The Pope was present at the entire meeting Wednesday morning, having suspended his Wednesday general audiences for a summer break.

Although no document has yet formalized Cardinal Parolin's membership in the council, Holy See Press Office director Father Federico Lombardi said “Pope Francis told Cardinal Pietro Parolin he is a full member of the Council, and so we can consider him fully a member of the council.”

Fr. Lombardi reported that in these first two days of meetings the cardinals discussed “three main themes.”

Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the head of the Vatican City State administration and a member of the council, reported about a series of matters relating to Vatican City's governorate, of which he is the president. Cardinal Parolin made a presentation about the Secretariat of State.

The council also discussed in depth the issue of the Institute for Religious Works, known as the IOR and referred to informally as the “Vatican Bank.” In two sessions, the council spoke with the members of the IOR's Supervisory Commission of Cardinals.

All of the members of the supervisory commission were present except for Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna.

The commission is chaired by Cardinal Santos Avril y Castellò, Archpriest of Rome’s Saint Mary Major Basilica. Its members include: Cardinal Parolin; Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; and Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto.

The supervisory commission will have one of its periodic meetings this week. It is likely the meeting will discuss the IOR annual report that should be released next week.

The report will “clarify the steps that have been made in the course of the year” and “will show the state-of-the-art of the IOR commitment to transparency,” according to an IOR spokesperson.

Fr. Lombardi's comments responded to several speculations about the Vatican finances and about the eventual dismissal of Vatican Bank president Ernst von Freyberg.

He stated that the IOR is “in a time of natural and peaceful transition.”

“The contribution of Ernst von Freyberg continues to be deeply appreciated and highly valued, and further clarifications are possible, indeed likely, next week after the meeting of the Council for the Economy on Saturday,” Fr. Lombardi said.

President von Freyberg’s mandate will expire this September. The issuance of the IOR annual report and the update of the IOR statutes could in any event lead to a changing of the guard at the IOR’s Council for Superintendency, which von Freyberg chairs.

The new IOR statutes would require a full time president. While von Freyberg acted as a de facto full time president, he is said to be desirous to return to his business and family in Germany.

The Council for the Economy is the 15-member council Pope Francis established to supervise the Vatican’s economic management. It also oversees the structures and the administrative and financial activities of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, of the institutions connected to the Holy See, and of Vatican City State.

The council is chaired by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich-Freising and member of the Council of Cardinals. It is composed of seven laymen and eight cardinals. The council will likely issue a first draft of it's statutes in their July 5 meeting.

Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for Economy, will also be present at the meeting. Cardinal Pell’s presence is a signal that the discussion will address the relations between the two separate bodies Pope Francis established with the Motu Proprio “Fidelis Dispensator et Prudens,” issued Feb. 24.

The Council for the Economy establishes policies, while the Secretariat for Economy implements them.

Fr. Lombardi said the council will also be informed on “developments relating to the IOR.” The Prefecture for Economic Affairs will inform the council about the 2013 budget and the 2014 provisional budget.

Economic matters are not the only focus of leading Vatican commissions and councils.

Fr. Lombardi also announced that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will meet July 6. The commission is now working to enlarge its eight-member board and to draft its statutes.

The July 6 meetings will likely prepare for Pope Francis’ meetings with victims of sex abuse by clergy, scheduled for July 7 in the Vatican.

Pope Francis established the commission in December 2013 following the suggestion of the council of cardinals.

The council will continue its meetings, taking into consideration and systematically developing the reflections it formulated about the review of the different bodies of the Roman Curia.

According to Fr. Lombardi, “a draft of a new pastoral constitution to re-design the Roman Curia may not be expected at the end of the meeting.”

At the moment, many possible ways to streamline the Vatican offices have been discussed.

The council of cardinals is holding its fifth meeting since its establishment. This marks the first time they have met for four consecutive days.


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October 24, 2014

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