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Pope launches secretariat for economic affairs

Announces new policymaking economic council, including laity

24 February, 16:07
Pope launches secretariat for economic affairs (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 24 - Pope Francis on Monday continued his drive to reform the scandal-tainted economic administration of the Vatican, as Church officials announced the establishment of a secretariat for economic affairs to be guided in policymaking by a new economic council, the latter made up of both clerics and laypeople. Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the 15-member Council for the Economy, made up of eight cardinals and bishops and seven laity, "will determine policy and directives," while the secretariat for economic affairs "will enforce them". Seen as his boldest step yet to overhaul the Vatican's murky finances, the changes were applied by a papal order known as a 'Motu Proprio' and are to be formally issued in Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano. Lombardi said Cardinal George Pell of Australia will be the prefect to preside over the secretariat for economic affairs. The economic council succeeds a previous one made up exclusively of cardinals, including Pell. A Church press release stressed that the changes to the economic structures are intended to "improve resource utilization, increasing available support for various programs, in particular, funds for programs that revolve around the poor and the marginalized". Among the secretariat's duties will be preparing an annual budget. It will include an auditor-general appointed by the pope, who will have the power to "conduct audits of any agency or institution of the Holy See and the State of Vatican City". The names of the lay members on the new council were not released, while the Church said they would be "of various nationalities with financial expertise and recognized professionalism". Lombardi confirmed that the existing Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which manages real estate and financial holdings, will be "like the central bank of the Vatican, with all the obligations and responsibilities of analogous institutions in the world". The Vatican statement makes no mention of the Vatican bank, the future of which is currently being reviewed by Francis and his eight most senior cardinals after decades of allegations of wrongdoing, including money laundering, which the Vatican has denied.