Cardinal's 15 mln Euro favour hurts IOR

The Vatican Bank or IOR building inside Vatican City

 VATICAN CITY- A baffling 15 million euro loan by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone evidently tore a hole in the Vatican Bank’s profits, its 2013 balance sheet released Tuesday indicates, Holy See watchers say. 

 The 2013 Accounts for the Institute for Religious Works (IOR)  revealed a significant decrease in net profit, generating 2.9 million euros in 2013, compared to earnings of 86.6 million euros in 2012. A net profit difference as vast as this 83.7 million euros, has been attributed to changes in investment funds as well as a reduction in the value of gold. Yet even when taking this in to account, it would still seem that some 67 million euros remain unaccounted for.

 In line with previous years, the Institute for Religious Work (IOR) contributed 54 million euros to the Holy See’s budget. However, elsewhere the balance sheet shows losses of 15 million euros thanks to the ‘Lux Vide’ operation, the work of  Cardinal Bertone, the extrovert soccer-loving Ligurian former Vatican "prime minister" or Secretary of State of the Holy See who arranged over opposition from within IOR to lend money to the ‘Ettore Bernabei’ Cinema company, "as a favour."

  Pope Francis also ordered a 12 million euro interest-free loan be given to bail out the diocese of Terni to cover the 20 million euro hole left by Vincenzo Paglia, current President of the Pontificial Family Council, as a legacy to his successor, Giuseppe Piemontese.

 In 2013 the IOR also carried out a complete review of all client bank accounts, tightening the minimum requirements for possession of a bank account. In light of this, some 3,000 accounts were closed, including 2,600 "dormant" accounts, which had either not been used recently or did not meet the minimum balance needed to keep an account open, and hundreds of others considered to be "secular accounts".

 This clean-up is said to mark the end of the first phase of the pope's renovation of the IOR though the institution has yet to meet all transparency requirements to qualify for inclusion in the EU's "white book," of institutions free of money laundering, financial sources say.

 Francis after some soul-searching decided not to close the IOR as he indicated he considered but to start afresh.

  In a bid to rid the bank of its previously opaque reputation, French Economist Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, in the latest in a series of dramatic personnel changes at the helm of IOR, will take over from Von Freyburg, with the aid of a new "secular board." Phase II of the reform is now underway, and involves integrating "the Institute into the new administrative-economic context of the Vatican," the Holy See says.

 Meanwhile Bertone has strongly denied any irregularity in renovation he has made in what the Italian media say is a luxurious 500 sq meter apartment he inhabits in the Vatican in contrast to Francis' decision not to move into the Apostolic Palace and remain in his modest suite in the Santa Marta hostel where cardinals lodge during conclaves.





Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. PHOTO CREDIT: ERIC VANDEVILLE