Galantino has led APSA, which functions as the Holy See’s treasury and sovereign wealth manager, since 2018. In October, he was forced to deny claims that the Holy See was heading for financial “collapse.”
“There is no threat of collapse or default here. There is only the need for a spending review. And that is what we’re doing. I can prove it to you with numbers,” he said, after a book alleged that the Vatican may soon be unable to meet its ordinary operating expenses.
In the Avvenire interview, the 72-year-old Italian bishop acknowledged that “errors” had contributed to the Vatican’s losses.
“It will be up to the [Vatican] court to decide whether it was a matter of errors, imprudence, fraudulent actions, or something else. And it will be for the same court to tell us if and how much can be recovered,” he said.
He stressed that APSA was not involved in the purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue in southwest London, which was overseen by the Secretariat of State.
He also noted that the secretariat administered Peter’s Pence, an annual worldwide collection intended to support the pope’s charitable activities and the running of the Roman Curia.
He was unable to reveal what percentage of the funds used to buy the property came from Peter’s Pence as the money would have come from a “basket” also containing other secretariat funds.
“I can say, however, that if there have been errors, or faults, or illegal behavior, the interest of the Holy See and of the whole Church is that clarity is offered. Even if it is a painful journey,” he commented.
Galantino said that the Vatican’s London investments had been hit by a drop in the value of the British pound sterling, the uncertainty of Brexit, and the coronavirus crisis.
Asked what the building at 60 Sloane Avenue was currently worth, the bishop said: “It is difficult to define the value of the property. Especially in this moment of the pandemic. And then, it is true that a house or a property has its own objective value. However, in the end, the market price and the buyer’s offer also affect its value.”
“It should be noted that the SdS, between the end of last year and the beginning of this year, obtained a new planning permission which evidently positively affects the value of the property.”
He conceded that APSA had a role in the Secretariat of State’s efforts to repay the loan taken out on the property.
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“In truth, the SdS had already obtained from a commercial bank the availability of a loan to pay off the particularly expensive mortgage, burdening the London building,” he said.
“However, before receiving it, it also wanted to ask APSA and the Secretariat for the Economy (Spe) to intervene to pay off the loan. APSA, in close collaboration with the SdS and the Spe, after having made the necessary assessments, coordinated the necessary financing, which thus allowed the SdS to free itself from the exorbitant interests and to bring the debt back to the Holy See.”
“It was an important step to bring order to this investment and to exclude financial structures or people outside the Vatican from ownership of the building. It is also for this reason that the new ‘sostituto’ of the SdS had decided to pay Mr. Gianluigi Torzi.”
The new “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, was Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who replaced Cardinal Angelo Becciu in the post in 2018. Becciu resigned his rights as a cardinal last month amid accusations of financial impropriety, which he denies.
Torzi, an Italian businessman, was arrested by Vatican officials in June and released on bail after being questioned about his role in the London deal.
Galantino observed that there was no supervisory body overseeing the Secretariat of State’s choice of consultants. He said he trusted that the investigation would reveal whether consultants were employed in “bad faith.”