Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 5, 2020 / 11:00 am
On Thursday morning, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis has removed control of financial affairs and investments from the Secretariat of State, transferring them to the Prefecture for the Economy and APSA. The decision, made in August, is the latest in a series of actions taken by the pope in response to the secretariat’s management of Vatican money.
The decision is a dramatic turn in the financial scandals surrounding the secretariat, and in the project of curial reform which has been grinding on slowly since the beginning of Francis’s pontificate.
The Secretariat of State has previously controlled funds amounting to hundreds of millions of euros, as well as an extensive property portfolio spread across the world. At times, there has been so much cash at its disposal that it has been informally referred to as the Vatican’s third bank, after the IOR and APSA.
Now, after more than a year of reporting has laid bare the details of its investments and business partners, management of assets and investments is being given over to APSA, under the oversight of the Prefecture for the Economy, with the secretariat only retaining control of “sovereign” financial affairs – essentially diplomatic expenditures – which are subject to the oversight of a new committee created by Francis last month.
While the letter from Francis to Cardinal Pietro Parolin announcing the move was graciously phrased, the reasons for the pope’s decision were outlined starkly – specifically mentioning the London property deal which kicked off the unfolding of recent scandals, and the Centurion Global Fund, run by Enrico Crasso, the former banker at Credit Suisse and longtime investment manager for the secretariat.
Now, the pope has ordered the secretariat to turn over control of its investments and assets and “exit as soon as possible” from the investments, or “at least dispose of them in such a way as to eliminate all reputational risks.”
But eliminating “all reputational risks” could prove more difficult even than closing down Vatican investments in the Centurion fund or selling a building for hundreds of millions of euros.
The Centurion fund itself, a CNA investigation found, is connected to several institutions linked to allegations of money laundering.