Vatican bank's head to quit as shake-up bites, sources say

Tue Jul 1, 2014 7:37am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican bank's chairman is to step down as soon as next week as part of the restructuring of an institution that has been an embarrassment to the Catholic Church for decades, Vatican sources said on Tuesday.

But the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disagreed over whether Ernst von Freyberg was leaving willingly or whether he was being pushed out over differences within the Vatican about the pace of reform.

Freyberg's departure is expected to be announced in connection with the publication, most likely next week, of the new annual report of the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

The new statues of the bank are expected to make the chairman's job a full-time, residential position and, according to one source, Freyberg has decided he wants to return to his family in Germany.

"He is at peace with his decision because it is his decision," this source said.

Freyberg was appointed to head the bank in February, 2013 in one of the last decisions made by former Pope Benedict before he resigned at the end of that month.

Under his leadership, the IOR, which has been hit by numerous scandals in the past, closed hundreds of accounts, instituted strict anti-money laundering regulations and launched several investigations into suspicious activities.

Just three months ago, Australian Cardinal George Pell, bought in by Pope Francis to head the Vatican's new department to oversee all its economic activities, said Freyberg was doing "an excellent job".   Continued...

President of the Vatican bank Ernst von Freyberg listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in his office at the Vatican June 10, 2013. Picture taken June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile