Vatican Bank Opens Its Books For the First Time

The Vatican's Secretive Financial Institution Pulls Back the Curtain on Its Assets After Years of Secrecy

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On Oct. 1, the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, published its first financial report in its 125-year history, revealing an array of assets that grew exponentially in 2012.

The 100-page document revealed that the bank quadrupled its earnings over 2011, gaining a net profit of $117 million. The report said the spike in profits came from “favorable trading results and higher bond values” spurred by a drop in interest rates in recent years. More than half of that profit went to the Pope so that he could use them for charitable works, according to Al Jazeera.

The Vatican doesn’t consider the IOR a bank, but rather a financial institution that manages assets for religious and charitable works. According to the report, the bank manages $6.8 billion, including more than $4 billion in securities, the majority of which is tied to government index bonds. But the bank also holds $55.9 million in gold, metals and precious coins as well as a real estate company with two investment properties worth $2.5 million, according to a Reuters report.

Vatican officials released the report amid calls for more transparency following several investigations into its finances by Italian prosecutors. Last summer, Pope Francis created a commission to examine the IOR’s operations, granting wide-ranging authority to get to the bottom of the scandals. The bank’s president, Ernst von Freyberg, said in a statement after the report was released that 2013 will be a year of reform and remediation and he does not expect the same returns as in 2012.

[Al Jazeera]