Pope Francis sets up commission to review Vatican bank

Pope Francis at the Vatican, 23 June Pope Francis, seen here at the Vatican on Sunday, has given the new commission carte blanche to investigate the troubled bank

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A commission of inquiry has been set up by Pope Francis to review the activities of the Vatican bank, following recent scandals.

Earlier this month, he named a trusted cleric to oversee the management of the bank, which is known officially as the Institute for Religious Works.

The institution, one of the world's most secretive banks, has been beset by allegations of money-laundering.

It has 114 employees and $7.1bn (£4.6bn; 5.4bn euros) of assets.

Analysis

Pope Francis has given the commission carte blanche, bypassing normal secrecy rules, to try to get to the bottom of scandals which have plagued the bank for decades.

The Institute for the Works of Religion was a major shareholder in the Banco Ambrosiano, a big Italian bank which collapsed in 1982 with losses of more than $3bn. Its chairman, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London - murder disguised as suicide. Mr Calvi had close relations with the Vatican.

More recently, the Vatican's bank has been accused of money laundering. In 2010, the then Pope Benedict set up a financial information authority to monitor its international transactions and to ensure that rules on money laundering and the financing of terrorism were being respected.

Inspectors from Moneyval, an international banking watchdog based in Paris, went through the bank's books and reported that there was still some way to go before the Vatican bank could be granted "white list" status.

The new commission is tasked with ensuring the bank operates in "harmony" with the mission of the Church.

It is made up of Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, and four senior clerics: Italian cardinal Raffaele Farina, French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Spanish bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru and US cleric Monsignor Peter Bryan Wells.

On 15 June, the Pope appointed Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca as the bank's interim prelate - effectively his representative at the institution.

In February, German lawyer Ernst von Freyberg was named the bank's new chairman, eight months after his predecessor was ousted amid a money-laundering inquiry.

His appointment was one of the last acts of Pope Francis's predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Mr von Freyberg set about instituting checks on the bank's 19,000 accounts, which are mostly held by Vatican employees, charities, priests and nuns.

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