Pope’s Money Czar Says Church Risks Being Targeted on Finance

George Pell
Australian Cardinal George Pell, center. Photographer: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Vatican’s financial czar has called for more honesty and transparency in the way the church handles its wealth, warning that it might be targeted “for financial irregularities” in the near future.

Cardinal George Pell, addressing a Catholic conference in Rimini, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, said on Saturday that modern accounting methods being adopted by the Vatican were “probably the best way of ensuring honesty and efficiency.”

The Australian Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said reforms to increase transparency currently under way “would be impossible” without Pope Francis.

“Now is the time to have or place our affairs in order and arranged in such a way that this can be demonstrated to the outside world,” Pell said. “The next wave of attacks on the church could be for financial irregularities.”

Pell quoted an unidentified European princess as once telling him “that some looked on the Vatican as being like an old noble family that was going bankrupt, losing all its money. They expected it to be incompetent, extravagant and easy pickings for thieves. We are all working hard in the Holy See, under the leadership of Pope Francis, to change this image.”

Pell reiterated that 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion) had been found tucked away in particular special accounts which did not appear on the Holy See’s balance sheet.

Under pressure from Italian investigators leading money-laundering probes, a review at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), known as the Vatican Bank, has led to more than 2,000 accounts being blocked.

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