Vatican Clarifies Bank Investigation

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In response to recent events involving a surprise investigation of what the media is reporting as the Vatican bank, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi has issued a letter clarifying certain facts about the institution, known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), that are being misreported.

The controvery concerns the sudden seizure by Italian authorities of $30 million from a Vatican bank account Tuesday as a precaution while prosecutors begin investigating top bank officials in connection with alleged mistakes made by them that may have violated Italy’s anti-laundering laws. 

“Yesterday the IOR returned to international media attention in the wake of a surprise investigation by the Procurator’s Office in Rome,” Fr. Lombardi’s letter began.

Because the activities of the IOR take place at an international level, and because its president, Gotti Tedeschi, is a well respected figure in international finance, Fr. Lombardi felt it was necessary to clarify matters in order “to avoid the spread of inaccurate information and to ensure that no damage is caused to the activities of the Institute or the good name of its managers.”

First of all, he explains, “the IOR is not a bank in the normal definition of the term. It is an Institute that administers the assets of Catholic institutions; institutions whose goal is to further a religious and charitable apostolate at an international level. The IOR is located within the territory of Vatican City State; in other words, beyond the jurisdiction and surveillance of the various national banks.”

However, Tedeschi has made and maintains “intense and fruitful contacts” with other banking institutions such as the Bank of Italy, as well as with the European Union.

“It is for this reason that the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the official communiqué it released on Tuesday, expressed its perplexity and amazement at this investigation by the Procurator’s Office in Rome, which has come at a time in which this commitment is being clearly shown and these contacts are being made in order to reach lasting solutions as soon as possible.

“The nature and aims of the transactions under investigation could have been clarified with great simplicity, being cash transactions the beneficiary of which is the Institute itself, on accounts it holds at other credit institutions. The current problem was caused by a misunderstanding (now being examined) between the IOR and the bank which received the transfer order.

“Thus the Holy See reiterates its complete confidence in the managers of the IOR, and its desire for complete transparency in the financial operations the Institute undertakes, in accordance with the procedures and norms required today to ensure the security and transparency of transactions in the field of international finance.”

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