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After property scandal, Pope tightens money controls

By Reuters | December 31st 2020
Pope Francis (PHOTO: FILE)

Pope Francis has issued a new decree making charity funds more transparent and tightening controls on Vatican finances after a scandal over a luxury London property deal.

The main target is the Secretariat of State, the most important part of the Vatican administration, which must relinquish management of its funds, investments and real estate and submit to supervision by two other economic offices. Published on Monday and signed by the pope on December 26, the decree takes effect over two months from January 1.

In 2014, the Secretariat invested about Sh25 billion ($244 million) as a partner in a deal to buy a luxury building in London.

As the deal became onerous, it paid tens of millions of fees to middlemen in attempts to change the terms. Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s former treasurer said earlier this month there had been “enormous losses”. In September, the pope fired Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former top Secretariat official.

An investigation into the London deal led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, four from the Secretariat. The Vatican has also accused the middlemen of extortion.

The Secretariat of State’s assets are being transferred to a department, Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and will be overseen by the Secretariat for the Economy.

The Secretariat of State also loses control of “Peter’s Pence”, a fund which the faithful can contribute to and is aimed at helping the pope run the Church and finance his charities.

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