VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has brought in international experts to help him overhaul the Holy See and move on from a series of scandals under his predecessor Benedict XVI.
Urged on by the cardinals who elected him four months ago, Francis set up a commission on Friday to help him reform the Vatican’s administration and finances.
Made up of seven international lay experts and one cleric, the commission will report directly to the pope and advise him on economic affairs, improving transparency and enforcing accounting principles.
Its members will have the right to examine any paper and digital document in the Vatican.
Francis inherited a Church struggling to deal with priests’ sexual abuse of children, alleged corruption and infighting in the central administration and conflict over the running of the Vatican’s scandal-ridden bank.
Benedict left a secret report for Francis on the problems in the administration, which came to light when sensitive documents were stolen from the pope’s desk and leaked by his butler in what became known as the “Vatileaks” scandal.
The documents accused Vatican insiders of corrupt dealings, including the award of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.
The new commission’s lay members are experts in economics, finance, management and law and come from Spain, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Malta and France, the Vatican said in a statement. The cleric will act as the commission’s secretary.
It will draft reforms of the Holy See’s institutions to simplify how they work and improve the way they manage their finances.
They will advise Vatican departments and find ways to “avoid the misuse of economic resources, to improve transparency in the processes of purchasing goods and services”, the statement said.
Francis ordered all Vatican departments to collaborate with the commission and bypass usual rules that oblige officials to respect the secrecy of their office.
In reporting directly to the pope, the commission, which Francis set up with a personal decree known as a “chirografo”, will bypass the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, its chief administrative office which itself has been hit by allegations of scandal and corruption.
The new commission was Francis’ third bold move to reform badly tarnished Vatican institutions.
One month after his election, he set up an advisory board of cardinals from around the world to help him govern the Catholic Church and reform its administration.
Last month, in an attempt to get to grips with an institution that has embarrassed the Catholic Church for decades, he set up a special commission of inquiry to reform the scandal-plagued Vatican bank.
The new commission will coordinate its work with the advisory board of cardinals and hold its first meeting after Francis returns to Rome after his July 22-29 trip to Brazil.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody and Tom Pfeiffer