Vatican City

Vatican Bank continues transparency drive with website

Pope Francis says proposals for IOR reforms are 'many'

Vatican Bank continues transparency drive with website

(by Kate Carlisle) Vatican City, July 31 - The Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), launched a new website Wednesday where it will publish its annual balance sheet as part of a push to bring more transparency to the financial establishment's dealings. "Our task is to run IOR in a way that it can respond to international norms, that it is a clean institute and one of service," the head of the Vatican Bank, Ernst von Freyberg, told Vatican Radio Wednesday. The bank's head also said that new measures were aimed at giving Pope Francis "an option to decide the right formula for IOR". The question of financial transparency at the Holy See is a delicate one given decades of scandal at the Vatican bank. Pope Francis is reportedly keen to remove stains from IOR's reputation and get the Vatican onto the 'white list' of countries with unimpeachable credentials by working with the Council of Europe's Moneyval anti-money-laundering agency. The Italian press has been speculating that the pontiff may be planning to reorganize or even shut down the IOR. The Argentine pontiff earlier in July announced the appointment of a panel of eight experts, including a young female Ernst & Young accounting executive, to run a pontifical commission aimed at monitoring the economic and organizational structure of Vatican City. During the pope's return from Brazil on Monday, where he was for World Youth Day, the pontiff told journalists that the "proposals for reform are many...I don't know what is going to happen with the IOR: some say it's better to have a bank, others say a foundation's what's needed and others say it should be shut down. I trust in the work being done by the people employed in the IOR and the commission". "". But whatever happens to the IOR, what is needed for sure is transparency and honesty," Pope Francis said. Von Freyberg, who was appointed as head of the embattled bank in February, promised in his first full staff meeting last May that the special website would be launched by the end of the year. He also said that an "international organization" would be consulted to oversee that transactions are in accordance with Vatican and international standards. "IOR has had an annual certification (by external auditors) for years, but this is the first year we will publish it," von Freyberg specified after Wednesday's announcement. "The site will also include a presentation of our services, a sampling of our clients, important moments in the bank's history, reforms we are pushing ahead on and people who work with us," he said. Anyone interested can visit the site at www.ior.va, von Freyberg said. The Vatican Bank and several of its employees have been probed by Italian magistrates in the past, while Moneyval last July gave positive grades in only nine of 16 areas concerning financial transparency.

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