Pope Francis Overhauls Vatican Finances, Names Australian Cardinal as Comptroller

Rev. Federico Lombardi, chief Vatican spokesman, briefs reporters on Monday. RNS photo: David Gibson

Pope Francis on Monday launched a sweeping reform of the Vatican’s scandal-plagued financial system by naming one of his closest advisers on reform, Australian Cardinal George Pell, to head a powerful new department that will oversee the Vatican bank and the entire economic system of the Holy See.

The new Secretariat for the Economy, with Pell acting as a unique kind of Vatican comptroller, will have “authority over all economic and administrative activities” in the Vatican, according to a statement summarizing Francis’ decree.

The changes also provide for an official who will be empowered “to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time” — a remarkable degree of authority in a bureaucracy where offices are known for zealously guarding their own turf.

Monday’s action is the most concrete step that Francis has taken after a months-long review of the Curia, the centuries-old Vatican bureaucracy whose dysfunction and scandals helped push Pope Benedict XVI to resign the papacy a year ago this week.

Two weeks after that, on March 13, the cardinals elected Francis in large part because he was seen as an outsider who could clean house and overhaul the Curia.

The decree by the pope, known as a “motu proprio,” meaning by his personal authority, may augur other major changes to come, said Vatican officials.

Francis’ move also appears to remove Pell – a vocal conservative and frequent lightning-rod for criticism – from the Australian hierarchy and place him in a Roman role that will make use of his administrative talents and perhaps reduce his visibility on doctrinal matters.

For now, Pell, 72, remains the archbishop of Sydney, said the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

But he said the new post is viewed as a full-time job and that Pell would “probably” move to Rome. The Vatican statement announcing the changes said Francis asked Pell “to start work as soon as possible,” and Lombardi said further developments are anticipated “in the next few days.”

David Gibson writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

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