Pope Francis' Words Translate into Actions

When Pope Francis spoke about "businessists" at Mass at Santa Marta yesterday, I wonder if he was thinking about his decision to sack the entire board of the Vatican's financial watchdog?



Well either way, his words weren't just words, he has acted decisively sacking the five-man board—all Italians—in a move being reported as an attempt to break with an old guard associated with a murky past. All five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016 and were laymen associated with the Vatican's discredited financial old guard.

The Vatican said the Pope named four experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and Italy to replace them on the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See's internal regulatory office. The new board includes a woman for the first time.

Reformers inside the Vatican had been pushing for the pope, who already has taken a series of steps to clean up Vatican finances, to appoint professionals with an international background to work with Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF and who has been pushing for change.

Vatican sources said Bruelhart, Liechtenstein's former top anti-money laundering expert, was chafing under the old board and wanted Francis to appoint global professionals like him.

"Bruelhart wanted a board he could work with and it seems the pope has come down on his side and sent the old boy network packing," said a Vatican source familiar with the situation.

The new board of the AIF includes Marc Odendall, who administers and advises philanthropic organizations in Switzerland, and Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard law professor and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington D.C.

The other two board members are Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, former managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and senior advisor to that country's president, and Maria Bianca Farina, the head of two Italian insurance companies.

Francis set up a new Secretariat for the Economy reporting directly to him and appointed an outsider, Australian Cardinal George Pell, to head it. I thought that was a good thing and quite dramatic. It's clear he is on to this!

In January he removed Cardinal Attilio Nicora, a prelate who played a senior role in Vatican finances for more than a decade, as president of the AIF and replaced him with an archbishop with a track record of reform within the Vatican bureaucracy.

He also replaced four of the five cardinals in the commission that supervises the Vatican's troubled bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Since the arrival of Bruelhart in 2012, the AIF has been spearheading reforms to bring the Vatican in line with international standards on financial transparency and money laundering. But Vatican sources say he has encountered resistance from an old, entrenched guard.

I am very pleased to see Pope Francis working on these institutions, the activities of which do concern me (some examples of nefarious goings on are reported in the secular press). Regardless of what has happened, I would say it is a definite that a shake up like this is much needed and will work to change the vision and direction of the organisation.


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