* Trying to shed reputation as world's most secretive bank
* Bank will hire international auditing firm
(Adds bank to be audited by its internal financial authority)
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, May 16 The Vatican Bank, a centre
of scandals for decades, is to launch its own website and
publish its annual report in an effort to increase transparency,
its new president said.
Ernst von Freyberg told the bank's employees of the changes,
which should be in place by the end of the year, this week,
according to Vatican Radio.
He also said the bank, formally known as the Institute for
Works of Religion (IOR) and dubbed the world's most secretive
bank by Forbes magazine, had also hired an auditing firm to make
sure it meets international standards against money laundering.
Vatican Radio did not name of the firm.
Freyberg was appointed in February to take the place of
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi who was fired last May.
Gotti Tedeschi said he was dismissed because he wanted more
transparency but the board, made up of international financial
experts, said he had neglected basic management responsibilities
and alienated staff.
His abrupt departure, along with the arrest of Pope
Benedict's butler for stealing confidential papal documents,
came during a leaks scandal that shook the Vatican last year and
contributed to Benedict's decision to resign.
The Vatican has been trying to shed its image as a murky
financial centre since 1982, when Roberto Calvi, known as "God's
Banker" because of his links to the Vatican, was found hanging
from London's Blackfriars Bridge.
Calvi was head of the Banco Ambrosiano, then Italy's largest
private bank, which collapsed in a fraudulent bankruptcy. The
Vatican bank owned part of the Ambrosiano.
In July, a European anti-money laundering committee said the
Vatican Bank failed to meet all its standards on fighting money
laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.
The report by Moneyval, a monitoring group of the 47-nation
Council of Europe, found the Vatican had passed only nine of 16
"key and core" aspects of its financial dealings.
The Vatican has vowed to make changes to meet the standards,
and will present a progress report on the Moneyval
recommendations at the end of the year, a Vatican official said.
The bank itself will be audited by the Vatican's internal
regulator, its Financial Information Authority, or FIA, the
Earlier this month, in another move towards transparency,
the Vatican's FIA signed a memo of understanding with FinCen,
the U.S. agency that tracks suspicious financial transactions.
In 2010, Rome magistrates froze 23 million euros ($33
million) held by the IOR in an Italian bank.
The Vatican said at the time that its bank was merely
transferring its own funds between its own accounts in Italy and
Germany. The money was released in June 2011 but the
Pope Francis, who was elected in March to succeed Benedict,
could enact a major restructuring of the bank or even eventually
decide to close it, Vatican sources have said. But the prospect
of total closure is remote.
The bank primarily handles funds for Vatican departments,
Roman Catholic charities and orders of priests and nuns around
(Editing by Louise Ireland)