The clean-out at the Vatican bank has reportedly claimed its second chairman in two years, with Ernst von Freyberg expected to resign next week.
The appointment of von Freyberg, a German lawyer and financier, was approved by Pope Benedict XVI in the days leading up to his resignation in 2012.
He replaced Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was removed by the bank’s directors after it was discovered a Rome bank account registered to the Vatican bank (then known as the Institute for the Works of Religion) held 23 million euro of allegedly laundered cash.
Since then, the Vatican has made a very public effort to clean up the perception of its bank.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis appointed a former security adviser for counter-terrorism to US President George W. Bush, Juan Zarate, to the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority.
Today, along with von Freyberg, the Vatican dismissed five Italian members from that body, which was also set up by Pope Benedict XVI to monitor the commercial activities of the Vatican Bank and other smaller Vatican agencies such as Vatican Pharmacy, the Vatican Supermarket, and the Vatican Museums.
Pope Francis was elected on a mandate of financial reform for the Vatican, but in two years has never held audience with von Freyberg.
The bank’s annual report is due out next week and there are reports that the resignations of its president and entire board are expected to be next.
That may open up an opportunity for Australia’s own Cardinal George Pell – the Vatican’s new economy minister – to pull the Vatican bank into his realm of responsibility.
Cardinal Pell will convene his new economic council for the first time next week, where he will consider restricting the bank’s activities – until now a financial institution independent of the Holy See – to that of a purely depository institution for clergy, religious congregations and Vatican employees.
According to the AP, its asset management services will be shifted to a different entity.
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