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Pope approves new direction for troubled Vatican Bank

Pontiff says institution 'will serve...with prudence'

07 April, 12:44
Pope approves new direction for troubled Vatican Bank (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 7 - Pope Francis approved the new mission of the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), better known as the Vatican Bank, as it aims to improve transparency, the Vatican said Monday. The pontiff's green light marks a critical vote of confidence for IOR management in its ongoing, wide-ranging efforts improve transparency and compliance at the bank. The image of the bank has been hit by a series of scandals over the years.

The pope's support reaffirms "the importance of the mission of IOR for the good of the Catholic Church, the Holy See and the Vatican," said a Vatican statement. The IOR "will continue to serve attentively to provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church all over the world," the statement continued. These services "help the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and support institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry".

The mission was requested by Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the secretariat for the economy, IOR Chairman Ernst von Freyberg and IOR top management.

The pope's approval "represents for us a strong accreditation, a great recognition of the importance of our mission and service work done in the last 12 months," said IOR spokesman Max Hohenberg, in a statement on behalf of IOR management.

Hohenberg added that the next priorities for the bank are to finish analysing bank clients and registry data by summer, and to work toward operational improvements through better integration of the IOR with other institutions of the Vatican and the Holy See. The Vatican statement said efforts to boost compliance, transparency and operations began in 2012, dramatically accelerated in 2013 and "are critical to the future of the Institute".

In January, the Vatican bank announced it was ready to resume normal relations with Italy after making progress in measures to prevent money laundering and other financial crimes.

Italian banks effectively stopped dealing with the IOR in 2010 after the Bank of Italy ordered them to enforce strict anti-money laundering criteria to continue working with it.

The Vatican has made several reforms to introduce greater financial transparency and fight money laundering since Francis was elected pope last year.