A Vatican Observer A layperson as secretary of the Vatican “central bank”?

spb bohumil St. Peter's Basilica. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Fabio Gasperini, a well-known manager who is working for Ernst & Young, might soon be appointed the secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). Gasperini would be the first layperson in the position.

Gasperini leads the Ernst & Young EMEIA Financial Services Office Advisory Banking & Capital Markets and Ernst & Young S.p.A. Italian FSO advisory services.

He has 25 years of experience advising financial services institutions across a broad range of areas: from retail banking to asset management, investment banking, insurance, and capital markets.

Gasperini also worked within the Vatican City administration when he was coming up, after graduating from Rome's prestigious La Sapienza university with a degree in  Business, Economics, and Commerce at La Sapienza University in Rome.

If the rumors on the appointment will prove right, Gasperini will be a connection between the Holy See and the corporate world and will have the task to carry forward the reform of the APSA, which is going to be framed as a real central bank.

Gasperini would replace monsignor Mauro Rivella, whose five-year term as APSA secretary ended in April.

Rivella became secretary of the APSA on Apr. 14, 2015. Coming from the archdiocese of Turin and ordained a priest in 1998, Rivella was previously under-secretary of the Italian bishops conference.

Rivella joined the APSA in 2013 as the delegate of the ordinary section of the dicastery. The ordinary section administers the goods of the Holy See, including the real estate.

The appointment of a new secretary at the APSA is part of a general renewal of the Administration's top ranks.

The Pope has also begun reshuffling the membership of the APSA Cardinals commission. Pope Francis has already appointed as a member of the commission Cardinal Daniel Sturla, archbishop of Montevideo. He replaced Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who turned 80 and is no longer eligible to hold positions in the Curia.

The Pope should also appoint another member of the Cardinals Commission to replace Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington, who will turn 80 in November.

The Cardinals commission works alongside the president and is composed of eight members, appointed by the Pope.

Other members of the commission are Cardinals Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop emeritus of Bogota; Ricardo Blazquez Perez, archbishop of Valladolid; Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State administration; James Michael Harvey, archpriest of the St. Paul Outside the Wall Basilica; and Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the dicastery Laity, Family and Life, and Camerlengo.

The current APSA organizational chart was outlined in 2017. Beyond the president and the secretary, the APSA has an undersecretary, an official for the management control, 13 offices, and services. APSA has 95 employees and about ten collaborators.

The APSA manages the real estate holdings of the Holy See and Vatican City, signs  contracts with Vatican employees, and signs the contracts for procurements and maintenance of Vatican buildings. The APSA is also the holder of Vatican accounts opened in national banks. The donations and legacies to the Holy See or the Holy Father become part of the APSA patrimony, under APSA management.

The APSA is the institutional/governmental investor for the Vatican City State and exclusively works for the Holy See bodies or Vatican City State.

Until 2015, the APSA also headed the board of the Vatican pension fund. That ended with a reform enacted May 29, 2015 – one of several recent changes.

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In October 2016, the APSA underwent another small reform, in which the consultors of the Administration became part of a "supervisory board".

Until 2016, the APSA had 23 people, held by 15 members of the clergy and eight laypeople. All the accounts have now been shut down, and the APSA has no longer bank-like accounts.

In 2020, the Data Processing Center of the ordinary section of the APSA was transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy, thus giving the secretariat a more critical role in overseeing the financial activities.

Gasperini's expertise also touches on business intelligence, business risk assessment, mergers and acquisition, strategic business plans, and profitably analysis. One of his main tasks will be the reorganization of the galaxy of companies and societies used by the Holy See to invest money.

A first clue of the harmonization was the Vatican decision, earlier this year, to shut down nine Swiss holdings and to merge all of their patrimony - much of it going back to the 1929 Lateran Treaty  compensation for loss of territory - into one holding, the Profima SA.

Gasperini's appointment would also break a traditional axis between the Italian Bishops Conference and the APSA: Rivella came from the Italian Bishops Conference, bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of the APSA, was formerly general secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference, and mons. Giuseppe Russo, the undersecretary, was previously Italian Bishops Conference responsible for the building of places of worship.

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