Opening salvos in Pope Francis’s financial ‘Reform 2.0’


May 22, 2020

By John L. Allen Jr.

Rome – Facing both a looming economic crisis and reminders that the anti-financial scandal measures adopted to date haven’t been fully effective, Pope Francis and his Vatican team this week have moved to try to defuse the bomb before it goes off, closing several Swiss holding companies responsible for portions of its assets and reallocating internal control over financial data collection.

Even together, the two moves hardly represent a comprehensive fix. Yet they do suggest that dubious transactions, which have generated scandal and so far cost five employees their jobs, coupled with several financial shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic, certainly have gotten the pope’s attention.

On Tuesday, Corriere della Serra, Italy’s newspaper of record, reported that Francis has shut down nine holding companies based in the Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, all of which were created to manage portions of the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its land and real estate holdings after the 1929 Lateran Pacts and payments by Mussolini’s Italy to offset the loss of the Papal States in the 19th century.

The deal netted the Vatican about $100 million in 1929, the equivalent of $1.5 billion today.

On Wednesday, just 24 hours later, the Vatican also announced that Pope Francis has transferred control Centro Elaborazione Dati (“Center for the Elaboration of Data,” known as CED) from the Administration of the Patrimony for the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretariat for the Economy (known by its Italian acronym “SPE”.)

The center is the office responsible for monitoring cash flows and assessing their impact on the Vatican’s financial situation – which means that if anyone on earth knows how much money the Vatican actually has at any given moment, or at least how much cash it has on hand, it’s these folks.

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