Pope rules Vatican bank to stay operative, approves reforms

Mon Apr 7, 2014 6:19am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has approved a reform proposal keeping the Vatican bank operative, ending a year of speculation over whether the pontiff would close the institution that has embarrassed the Church for decades.

The bank's stated purpose is to manage funds for Roman Catholic orders of priests and nuns, charitable institutions and Vatican employees and retirees. But it has been dogged by episodes of malpractice by people authorised to hold accounts there and murky dealings with Italian financial institutions.

"The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide," the Vatican said on Monday in a statement announcing that Francis had approved recommendations for the future of the bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former senior Vatican accountant

who had close ties to the IOR, is currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from Switzerland as part of a scheme to help rich friends avoid taxes.

Scarano has also been indicted on separate charges of laundering millions of euros through the IOR. Paolo Cipriani and

Massimo Tulli, the IOR's director and deputy director, who resigned last July after Scarano's arrest, have been ordered to stand trial on charges of violating anti-money laundering norms.

The most infamous scandal involving the IOR was in 1982, when it was caught up in the fraudulent bankruptcy of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano, whose president Roberto Calvi was found hanged under a bridge in London.   Continued...

Pope Francis talks to the faithful at the end of a visit to parish San Gregorio Magno in Rome April 6, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile