Vatican bank open to money laundering: report

Italian investigators have said that the Vatican bank operated in a way that facilitated money laundering, according to leaked papers quoted by two Italian newspapers on Saturday following a three-year inquiry.

Vatican bank open to money laundering: report
Investigators say the Vatican bank facilitated money laundering. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

The bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR in Italian) did not carry out enough checks on its clients and account holders were allowed to transfer large sums on behalf of others.

“There is a high risk that the way the IOR operates, without specifying its real clients, can be used as a screen to hide illegal operations,” prosecutors wrote in a document that was quoted by Corriere della Sera.

They also faulted Italian banks that accepted transfers from the IOR for failing to probe the origin of the money, which is then moved into other banks.

“The IOR can easily become a channel for the laundering of money with a criminal origin, they said.

They also contradicted IOR statements that its account holders are all religious congregations or clergy.

“There are also private individuals who, because they enjoy a particular relationship with the Holy See, can deposit money and open accounts,” they said.

The investigation centred on a €23 million ($30-million) transfer made from the Vatican bank to Italian lender Credito Artigiano in September 2010.

Three million euros were then sent on to Banca del Fucino and 20 million to JP Morgan Frankfurt.

The transfer was signed off by IOR's then director general Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli, who both resigned last week.

Prosecutors are set to file charges against them.

La Repubblica said the two were also being accused over a dozen other smaller transfers to JP Morgan.

Pope Francis has set up a committee to investigate the bank and is said to be planning a major shake-up of the scandal-ridden institution as part of broader reforms of the Vatican bureaucracy.

The Vatican is reforming its finances in order to be included on a “white list” of states that respect international rules against money laundering.

Italian police last month arrested a senior cleric on suspicion of money laundering and fraud for allegedly plotting to smuggle millions of euros into Italy.

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.