Pope Francis approved a proposal Monday on the future of the Institute for Religious Works, commonly known as the “Vatican bank,” affirming its importance for the good of the Church. “The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide,” read a statement from the Holy See press office released April 7. “The valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry.” The proposal has not been detailed, but seems to deal with the insertion of the Vatican bank among the wider reform of the Holy See’s financial departments. It was developed by the organizations charged with oversight and reform at the Vatican bank, and was presented by Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, with the permission of Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, president of the Vatican bank’s cardinal commission. The Secretariat for the Economy, established Feb. 24, should have a prime role to play in the reformation of Vatican finances, including the Vatican bank. “With the confirmation of the IOR’s mission and at the request of Cardinal-Prefect Pell, the President of the Board of Superintendence, Ernst von Freyberg, and the management of the IOR, will finalize their plan to ensure that the IOR can fulfil its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See/Vatican City State,” the press office announced. “The plan will be presented to the Holy Father’s Council of Cardinals and the Council for the Economy.” It was also noted that the proposal is drawn from information on the Vatican bank’s legal status and operations, which was presented to Pope Francis and the council of eight cardinals in February. The Authority for Financial Information will continue to regulate the Vatican bank, and Cardinal Pell “has confirmed the importance of a sustainable systematic alignment of the legal and regulatory framework of the Holy See/Vatican City State with regulatory international best practice.” “Strict regulatory supervision and improvements in compliance, transparency and operations initiated in 2012 and substantially accelerated in 2013 are critical for the Institute’s future.” The press officers of the Vatican bank told CNA April 7 that their priorities are “to finish the screening of customers’ accounts by the beginning of the summer; to work toward a better integration of the Institute with the bodies of the Vatican City State; and to introduce a series of improvements in IOR operations.” The Vatican bank press officers also stressed that the Pope’s decision “represents for us a great acknowledgement of the importance of our mission at the service of the Church and of the work we have been carrying out in the last 12 months.” Vatican financial reform was begun in 2009, when the Holy See, under Benedict XVI, signed a monetary agreement with the European Union and issued an anti-money laundering law the following year. It underwent an evaluation by the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee in 2011, after which it amended and improved its anti-money laundering law. In July 2012 the Vatican received a generally positive evaluation from Moneyval. Pope Francis has established a committee for financial security, and promulgated a law Oct. 8 establishing a financial system taking into account the peculiarities of the Vatican City State.
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