Australia’s Cardinal George Pell has dismissed claims the Holy See is penniless, revealing the church has discovered hundreds of millions of euros in off-the-books accounts.
Penning an article in the Catholic Herald, Pell – who took over as head of the Vatican’s finances in March – revealed that the Catholic Church was in a “much healthier” situation than it seemed.
“Some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” Pell wrote.
He said the Vatican’s offices had “long-established patterns” and “an almost free hand” when it came to managing and organising finances.
72-year-old Pell was appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the Vatican’s annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls. The changes in financial practices heralds an unprecedented step in the Church’s history, as it begins to conform to internationally accepted standards.
From January 2015 each department will employ “sound and efficient financial management policies” and must prepare and deliver appropriate financial reports. The financial statements will then be reviewed by an international auditing firm.
“Donors expect their gifts to be handled efficiently and honestly, so that the best returns are achieved to finance the works of the Church… a Church for the poor should not be poorly managed,” Pell wrote.
“A German princess once told me that many used to think of the Vatican as being like an old noble family slowly sliding towards bankruptcy.
“They were expected to be incompetent, extravagant and easy pickings for thieves.
“Already this misapprehension is dissolving.”