* Most daring move yet to open finances up to scrutiny
* Secretariat for the Economy headed by Australian cardinal
* Lay members brought in to increase outside expertise
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, Feb 24 Pope Francis on Monday
revolutionised the Vatican's scandal-plagued finances, inviting
outside experts into a world often seen as murky and secretive
and saying the church must use its wealth to help the poor.
Francis, elected nearly a year ago with a mandate for
reform, used a document known as a Motu Proprio - Latin for "by
his own initiative" - to implement immediate changes including
appointing an auditor-general.
The document says the Church must see its possessions and
financial assets in the "light of its mission to evangelise,
with particular concern for the most needy".
A new Secretariat for the Economy will report directly to
the pope and will be headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell,
72, currently the Archbishop of Sydney and a key proponent of
financial transparency in a committee that advised the pope. A
Church source said Pell would move to Rome.
The auditor-general will have wide oversight powers "to
conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City
State at any time," a statement said.
The Secretariat, effectively a new ministry, will be headed
by Pell and guided in policy making by a new 15-member Council
for the Economy made up of eight prelates and seven lay
financial experts "with strong professional financial
experience" from around the world, according to the statement.
The Motu Proprio's title is "Faithful and Prudent
Administrator". A Vatican statement said the changes "will
enable more formal involvement of senior and experienced experts
in financial administration, planning and reporting and will
ensure better use of resources, improving the support available
for various programmes, particularly our works with the poor and
Francis decreed that the changes have "immediate, full and
stable effect," abrogating any existing rules not compatible
An existing economic department known as the Administration
of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which manages
financial holdings and real estate, will formally assume the
role of the Vatican's central bank and have "all the obligations
and responsibilities of similar institutions around the world,"
the statement said.
The role and structure of the separate Vatican bank,
formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR),
will not change for the time being, a spokesman said.
There was no mention of the IOR in Monday's statements.
Francis has not ruled out closing the bank, which primarily
handles funds for religious orders and Vatican employees.
Both the IOR and APSA have been at the centre of scandals.
Italian magistrates are investigating the IOR on allegations of
money laundering. The Vatican dismisses the charges.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant
at APSA for 22 years and who had close ties to the IOR, is
currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions of
dollars into Italy from Switzerland to help rich friends avoid
Scarano has also been indicted on separate charges of
laundering millions of euros through the IOR. He says the money
in his accounts at the IOR were from donations. Italian
magistrates contest this and the IOR carried out its own
investigation of Scarano and shared its findings with the
In the past year under the leadership of its German
president, Ernst von Freyberg, the IOR has closed hundreds of
accounts, instituted strict anti-money laundering regulations
and launched several investigations into suspicious activities.