Vatican City, Jun 2, 2015 / 05:01 am
In an exclusive interview with CNA, the director of the Vatican's financial watchdog stressed that the Holy See has pursued the goal of adopting international standards for financial transparency in accord with the Church's mission, and not to merely seek adherence to international standards.
"The Holy See's path toward financial transparency has not been that of imitating other countries, nor that of applying international standards by analogy," Tomasso Di Ruzza , director of the Authority for Financial Information, stated. The main goal, he added, "was the ambitious one of adopting international standards coherently with the nature and the mission of the Holy See in the world."
Di Ruzza, 40, was appointed director of the AIF in January. He had worked at the Holy See for 10 years, first as an international law expert at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and then at the AIF since 2011.
Di Ruzza is credited as one of the main promoters of the path that consolidated the Holy See and Vatican City State's anti-money laundering and prudential supervision system over the last three years.
"Our unique goal was to establish a financial system which would be solid, sustainable for the long term, and coherent with the nature of the Holy See and Vatican City State's domestic legal framework and sovereign prerogatives," Di Ruzza said.
He added that "this path is not just linked to the commitments undertaken with the international community. It is a moral duty to the Church."
Despite a decrease in the number of suspicious transactions reported, the Holy See's finances have often been under the spotlight because of alleged financial scandals, leading Vatican finances to be described like a place of illicit dealings.
Di Ruzza did not want to comment on any specific case, but he underscored that "a system of prevention and countering, based on certain rules and procedures, has been established."
"To say it with a metaphor, it is one thing is risk falling ill without an immune system, and another thing entirely to fall ill with a strong immune system," he added.
The director of the authority then stressed that "unfortunately, possible attempts at illicit activities cannot be eradicated from their very roots, as these roots lie in an individual's soul and conduct." But "we can have an effective immune system, able to prevent and counter the conduct of individuals."
The reporting system data is a proof of the consolidation of the vigilance system: in 2012, the AIF received six suspicious transactions reports; in 2013, 202; and in 2014, 147.
After the issuing of new statutes for the AIF in November 2013, it was entrusted with prudential supervision, and given an extra office to handle the new responsibility.
"Prudential supervision is a pillar of the system of vigilance" and is "foundational for dialogue with foreign vigilance authorities," Di Ruzza said
The pursuit of financial transparency at the Vatican was initiated by Benedict XVI in 2010, involving many changes from 2011 to 2013. Di Ruzza said the system is now settling down, with a comprehensive set of regulations having been introduced in October 2013.
Di Ruzza stressed that the regulation on prudential supervision "follows the requirements of Vatican law, and at the same time meets the need to adhere to the best European and international standards" in terms of supervision.
He also discussed the importance of the Vatican's own norms, and the European Commission's acknowledgement, in a 2009 convention, of the institutional, juridical, and financial framework of the Holy See and Vatican City State.
"A really effective and sustainable anti-money laundering system will arise only from a balance between the adoption of international standards and coherence to the domestic framework," Di Ruzza said.
This ongoing process should help to strengthen relations with the AIF's foreign counterparts, Di Ruzza believes.
He expressed hope that the Bank of Italy will soon regard the Institute for Religious Works (the 'Vatican bank') as an institute with an equivalent anti-money laundering system.
"The AIF has fostered dialogue and mutual trust with the Bank of Italy, and hopes to be soon able to formalize channels of collaboration and exchange of information, as it already did with the Italian Financial Intelligence Unit."
In the end, Di Ruzza identifies the profound reason for the Holy See's commitment to financial transparency as "the need for the Holy See to be present with its teaching at this important institutional table."
He said the Holy See's commitment to financial transparency deals on both moral, institutional, and juridical levels.
"The Holy See's transparency comes out of the coherence between the commitments undertaken in international tables and a deep moral duty," Di Ruzza said, adding that this transparency "is not just functional for safe transactions," but is also a factor that shows "finances are a mean, not and end" for the Holy See, and it is "directed to the development of persons and peoples."
"Commitment to this model of transparency, which perhaps lacked some visibility in the past and was often questioned, is now visible, and we can harvest its fruits," Di Ruzza concluded.