Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Vatican bank launches website

Lizzie Davies
The Guardian
July 31, 2013

It may seem a small step, but for an institution that has long clothed itself in secrecy it is billed as a giant leap. The Vatican bank has unveiled its own website.( at

As it battles internal strife, external criticism and existential threat, the establishment officially known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) says it hopes the new portal will boost transparency and improve its dialogue with customers and the public.

Visitors to the site can read about the bank's 71-year history, how many customers it has (18,900, as of last year), its employees (114), and its net profit for 2012, listed as €86.6m (£75.6m).

Opening hours and governance structure are also detailed, including the role of Monsignor Battista Ricca, the prelate chosen by Pope Francis to observe reforms, and around whom allegations of scandal brewed earlier this month.

Later this year the bank's annual report is expected to be put on the site, the first time it has published its accounts.

Ernst von Freyberg, the bank's president, said the site would be a key tool in keeping the outside world up to date on the progress of internal reforms at the institution, particularly regarding its attempts to comply with the EU's anti-money laundering requirements.

"It is an important part of transparency to launch a website," he told Vatican Radio, adding that its purpose was "to tell our customers, the church, the interested public what we are doing, how our reform efforts are progressing and what the scope of our work is".

Francis has made clear that he wants reform of the IOR and has refused to rule out its eventual closure. Last month he set up a commission to review its internal workings in an attempt to oversee a "greater harmonisation" between its activities and the wider Roman Catholic church.

Soon after, the bank's director and deputy director resigned following the arrest of a high-ranking cleric with close ties with the Vatican's financial activities. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is under investigation by police in two separate cases, one involving allegations of money laundering, which he denies, and the other an aborted plot to bring €20m euro illegally to Italy. His lawyers acknowledge his participation in the plot, but deny allegations of corruption. His two Vatican bank accounts have been frozen.

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