Pope Francis on January 15 took his biggest step
yet at cleaning house at the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank, replacing most of the
institution’s advisers with fresh faces.
Among the new appointees: Vatican Secretary of
State and Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn from
Vienna; Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto; and veteran diplomat Cardinal
Santos Abril y Castello, a close friend of the pontiff’s.
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran is the lone
cardinal adviser who was retained.
Francis’ move essentially undid a decree issued
last year by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who confirmed the Vatican
Bank’s supervisory body for another five years, just days before announcing his
retirement. The most high-profile figure terminated was Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone, Benedict’s secretary of state and the face of administrative woes of
Officially known as the Institute for Religious
Works, the Vatican Bank plays an essential role in helping facilitate the
Vatican’s role in confronting poverty worldwide. But it has also been connected
with widespread corruption and money laundering.
Last July, a priest and Vatican accountant Nunzio
Scarano was arrested and accused of smuggling nearly $30 million into Italy
from Switzerland. In 2012, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted as bank president
after being accused of incompetence.
That same year, U.S. banker JPMorgan closed its
accounts with the bank, and Deutsche Bank Italia ended a 15-year relationship,
making the Holy See a cash-only state for several months.
Since becoming pope last March, Francis has
repeatedly railed against corruption, and his reforms at the bank are quickly
becoming a test case for those efforts.
This week, he took another, less controversial
step in that direction, calling for a “spending review” that includes settling
on a cap for expenses tied to the canonization causes of would-be saints. In
the past, critics charged that figures backed by well-financed supporters
usually became saints more quickly than their more meagerly financed