It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Pope Francis shook up the scandal-plagued Vatican bank on Wednesday, removing four of five cardinals from an oversight body in a break with the clerical financial establishment he inherited from his predecessor. It was his latest move to get to grips with an institution that has often been an embarrassment for the Holy See and which he has vowed to either reform or close.
The four cardinals were removed just 11 months into their five-year terms as commissioners, which began under former Pope Benedict, who resigned last February. The changes came as Francis approached the first anniversary of a pontificate marked by austerity and sobriety, underlined by his decision to give up the papal apartments in favor of a modest suite.
The new team includes two cardinals — Toronto's Thomas Christopher Collins and Vienna's Christoph Schoenborn — from relatively rich dioceses who have had extensive dealings with financial affairs.
The others are Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's new secretary of state, who will be elevated to the rank of cardinal next month, and Santos Abril y Castillo, a Spaniard who is based in Rome and is a close friend of the Pope's. The one holdover was French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
* Overhaul comes only 11 months into five-year terms
* Four of five members replaced
* Pope has not ruled out closing bank
The bank has undergone major changes since the arrival last February of its new president, Ernst Von Freyberg, a German. His team has closed many accounts and hired an outside firm, the Promontory Financial Group, to help it meet international standards of transparency drawn up to combat money laundering. An Italian investigation into alleged money laundering at the bank is still in progress.
The bank denies the accusations. Last month, Moneyval, a monitoring committee of the Council of Europe, said the Vatican had made significant progress in financial reforms but still risked being used for money laundering unless it strengthened internal controls.
Last July, IOR director Paolo Cipriani and deputy-director Massimo Tulli resigned, three days after the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano. Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant in the department headed by Calcagno, one of the cardinals removed and who had close contact with the bank, is currently on trial in Rome on charges of plotting to smuggle 20 million euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland.
On Feb. 16, 2013, just days after announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the existing members of the bank's supervisory body for another five years. The members included Benedict's longtime deputy and secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was widely blamed for many of the Vatican's administrative shortcomings during Benedict's papacy.
Francis has now essentially undone Benedict's decree, relieving Bertone and the other commission members of their jobs as he moves forward with his reform of the bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works.
Over the summer, Francis named a trusted friend, Monsignor Battista Ricca, to fill a vacant supervisory position and appointed an independent commission of inquiry to look into the bank's activities and legal status.
Pope Francis is either very brave or completely reckless.