Pope Francis Opens Vatican Finances to Outside Scrutiny

Move aimed at reforming scandal-ridden institutions

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Max Rossi / Reuters

Pope Francis celebrates a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican February 23, 2014.

Pope Francis is permitting greater financial oversight of the Vatican’s scandal-ridden institutions as part of his reformist push within the Catholic church.

A new Secretariat for the Economy will have wide powers “to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time,” according to a statement released Monday.

Australian Cardinal George Pell will head the Secretariat, and a 15-member council made up of eight prelates and seven lay financial experts “with strong professional financial experience” will guide its policy-making.

The two institutions at the center of Vatican finance scandals, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), will remain for the time being, with APSA formally taking the role of the Vatican’s central bank.

Monsignor Ninzio Scarano, a senior accountant at APSA for 22 years, is currently on trial, accused of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars from Switzerland to Italy. Italian magistrates are also investigating the IOR on suspicion of money laundering.