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Pope replaces IOR cardinals in post-Benedict shake-up

Francis working to reshape image of troubled Vatican bank

15 January, 14:52
Pope replaces IOR cardinals in post-Benedict shake-up (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Vatican City, January 15 - Pope Francis has replaced four members of the Vatican bank's five-cardinal oversight committee "for a five-year mandate," the Vatican said Wednesday, in what is seen as a radical reshuffling of appointments originally made by his predecessor Benedict XVI. The new committee consists of Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna; Thomas Christopher Collins, archbishop of Toronto; Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue; Santos Abril y Castelló, archpriest of the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome; and newly instated Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who will be elevated to cardinal at a consistory on February 22.

Tauran of France is the only holdover. The leader of the committee has yet to be announced. Leaving the group are former secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone; Archbishop of Sao Paolo Odilo Pedro Scherer; Archbishop of Ranchi, India, Telesphore Toppo; and Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. The outgoing committee still had one year remaining in its five-year mandate. But Vatican watchers say its makeup had become politically unsustainable with the arrival of Francis, who replaced Benedict after his shocking abdication in February for his advancing age.

The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), has come under scrutiny for alleged money laundering and is now working with the Council of Europe's Moneyval agency to bring it in line with international standards.

Vatican administrators have made significant progress, according the monitoring group of financial experts.

In a December report it said that it approved of the efforts made by the Vatican to bolster financial transparency within its institutions.

But it added that more work must be done.

Francis has not ruled out eventually getting rid of the Vatican bank altogether if reforms fail.

In June he set up a special investigative pontifical commission to study IOR reforms, which once again includes Cardinal Tauran and even a layperson, Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former United States Ambassador to the Holy See.

The following month he established a pontifical commission on the study and guidance of the organization of the economic-administrative structure of the Holy See.

Francis appointed his private secretary Alfred Xuereb to oversee both groups, a sign he was paying close attention to their goings on. Over the years the Vatican Bank has acquired a murky image on transparency.

There have been allegations that IOR was used to launder money most notably by 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi, the former head of Italy's biggest private bank, whose body was found hanging under Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected victim of the Sicilian mafia.

IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the 1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy's old political establishment.

In recent years there have been a series of Italian TV reports and a best-selling book claiming to show how individuals used IOR to squirrel away money, dodging Italian regulations.

Restoring IOR's image has been a central priority since Francis' election. In October, the pontifical commission passed new financial laws designed to increase transparency, surveillance and improve regulations to bring them into compliance with international standards including efforts to prevent and fight money laundering and terror financing.

Reforms have also included shutting client accounts that were not considered to be consistent with the bank's religious mission, Ernst von Freyberg, president of the Vatican bank, said in a report last year.