Vatican bank reports €38 million profit in 2019

The Institute for Religious Works or the Vatican Bank as it is commonly known June 28 2013 File Photo CNA CNA Catholic News 6 28 13 The Institute for Religious Works, or 'Vatican bank'. (File Photo/CNA).

The Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), commonly called the Vatican Bank, said it had made a net profit of 38 million euros in 2019 as it released its annual report Monday.

According to the report, the IOR recorded a net profit more than double that of the 17.5 million euros it reported in 2018. This could be due to the boom in global markets in 2019, a year in which the S&P 500 grew by more than 28%. 

An IOR press release June 8 attributed the net result to a "risk-based and faith consistent investment process," adding that the "priority and commitment of the Institute to the ethical and social principles of Catholic teaching is applied to the management and investment policies of its own account and to those of its clients."

The 2019 Vatican bank financial statements were audited by Mazars Worldwide.

Despite recording a profit, the IOR has been embroiled in controversy in recent months.

Earlier this year, a Maltese court authorized the seizure of IOR assets after a years-long court battle with investment managers over millions of euros which the Vatican bank agreed to invest with the firms, before withdrawing from the deal. 

A recent financial investigation at the Vatican arose with a complaint from the IOR regarding the Secretariat of State's purchase of a luxury property in London. The IOR did not want to give the Secretariat of State a loan to support the acquisition, and complained about the operations.

Pope Francis promulgated a new law June 1 intended to prevent corruption and control spending in Vatican City State and Holy See financial transactions. The legislation states several fundamental principles guiding the norms, including that economic decisions should be ethical and made in accordance with the social doctrine of the Church.

The law calls for "economy, efficacy and efficiency," and puts in place guidelines for medium- and long-term planning and justification of financial expenditure.

In its forecast for this year in its annual report, the IOR said: "The COVID-19 pandemic renders estimations on markets trends for 2020 highly uncertain. The IOR will continue to serve the Holy Father and his mission as the Universal Pastor through provision of dedicated financial advisory service, in full compliance with Vatican and international laws in force."

According to the June 8 press statement, more than half of the client assets in the IOR -- 3.4 billion of 5.1 billion euros -- are managed by third parties or are under custody. 

The IOR had 14,996 clients as of December 2019. Nearly half of clients are religious orders. Other clients include Vatican offices, apostolic nunciatures, episcopal conferences, parishes, and clergy.

The Institute for Religious Works was founded in 1942 under Pope Pius XII but can trace its roots back as far as 1887. It aims to hold and administer money designated for "religious works or charity," its website says. It accepts deposits from legal entities or persons of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State. The main function of the bank is to manage bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations.

According to ACI Stampa, IOR director general Gian Franco Mammì said of the report: "The Institute has continued to invest in companies that operate in compliance with Catholic ethics and carry out activities to protect creation, the sanctity of life and human dignity."

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