EXCLUSIVE Pope hopes London builds latest Vatican financial scandal

Pope Francis looks on during an exclusive interview with Reuters, at the Vatican, July 2, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

  • Ten defendants in Vatican corruption trial over London building
  • Vatican financial administration used to be ‘very messy’, Pope says
  • Accuses “the irresponsibility of the structure” of past scandals
  • Pope praises Australian cardinal who pushed for transparency

VATICAN CITY, July 7 (Reuters) – Pope Francis has said he hopes the recent sale of a luxury London building at the center of an ongoing corruption trial will give the Vatican a behind-the-scenes look at the scandals financial.

Vatican finances were one of many ecclesiastical and international topics the 85-year-old pontiff discussed in an exclusive interview with Reuters at his Vatican residence on July 2.

In other parts of the interview, he denied plans to resign anytime soon, denied having cancer, talked about his hopes of going to Moscow and Kyiv, and revealed that for the first time he would appoint women to a Vatican committee that helps him choose bishops. Read more .

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

The interview came a day after the Vatican announced it had completed the sale of the Sloane Avenue building in Chelsea, taking a hit estimated at around 140 million euros. Read more .

Ten people, including a Vatican cardinal and two Italian financial brokers, are on trial in the Vatican on charges of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and extortion related to the building.

The pope was asked if he believed enough controls were now in place that similar scandals could not happen again.

“I believe so,” he said.

The Vatican Secretariat of State first invested in the building in 2014 with funds from its own sovereign wealth fund, managed without external oversight.

He had resisted scrutiny even from the Secretariat for the Economy, which the pope established in 2014 to oversee all Vatican finances and put an end to decades of scandals caused by the fragmentation of finances, in which different departments exercised a control. fief-like control. .

Following London’s botched and embarrassing deal, the Pope stripped the Secretary of State of control of its own investment funds in 2020. Last month, he set up a committee to oversee the ethics of all Vatican investments. Read more

“Before, the administration (of Vatican money) was very disorderly,” the pope said, adding that the Secretariat for the Economy is now made up of experts and technicians, “who do not fall into the hands of benefactors or friends, who can get you off track.

BLESSED IMELDA

He gave the example of priests who had no financial experience who were asked to manage the finances of a department and who, in good faith, sought outside help from friends in the outside financial sector.

“But sometimes the friends weren’t Blessed Imelda,” he said, referring to an 11-year-old Italian girl from the 14th century, a symbol of childhood purity.

“And so what happened, happened,” the pope said.

He blamed “structure irresponsibility” for past financial scandals, saying the money administration “was not mature”.

In the interview, Francis hailed Australian Cardinal George Pell as “the genius” who insisted the Vatican needed a global economy ministry to control money flows and fight corruption. .

Pell served as the first head of the Secretariat for the Economy, receiving a mandate from the Pope to clean up the Vatican’s troubled finances.

Pell, now 81, quit the job in 2018 to face sex abuse charges dating back decades in Australia. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement before being cleared of all charges on appeal in 2020.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, whom Pell accused of resisting financial reforms when he was number two in the Secretariat of State, is currently one of 10 defendants in the bribery trial over the London property deal.

All of the defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.