A major press conference was held at the Vatican today by His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Economy. The press conference was held to announce major reforms within both the financial and communications entities of the Vatican, as well as announce the new leadership of these entities. It is part of a growing theme of transparency and openness being promoted by the Vatican following the election of Pope Francis last year, something Cardinal Pell stressed from the outset of today’s event.
The press conference focused on four particular areas of reform: the Vatican Patrimony Administration - APSA, the Vatican’s pension fund, Vatican media as well as IOR, the Vatican Bank. Speaking first on APSA, which manages "properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function," Cardinal Pell announced a formal division of what is essentially the Vatican’s central bank.
Shifting then to the Vatican’s pension fund, the Cardinal introduced Joseph Zahra, Deputy Coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy. Zahra noted that despite the troubles facing many pension funds today, the Vatican’s was secure and stable. He said that a committee would integrate the entire administrative structure of the pension fund into the new financial structure of the Vatican over the coming months.
Cardinal Pell then spoke of reform within the Vatican’s communications structure, announcing that a committee had been formed to look into ways for Vatican media to reach more Catholics around the world. He noted the Vatican would put a major emphasis on new modes of communication through new media, touting the success of the Pope App and the Papal Twitter account. He announced that Lord Christopher Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University, a former British M.P., former governor of Hong Kong and former Chairman of the BBC Trust would head the committee.
Lastly, Cardinal Pell spoke on the Institute of Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank as well as IOR. Here he deferred to Ernst von Freyberg, the outgoing President of the Supervisory Council of IOR. Von Freyberg confirmed that as we reported, all accounts at the Vatican bank had been investigated and those which needed to be, were dealt with appropriately. He did however speak positively regarding the situation of accounts at the bank.
Finally, Cardinal Pell introduced Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, Member of the Council for the Economy as the incoming President of the Supervisory Council of IOR. The new president spoke graciously of the work of Mr. von Freyberg as well as that of that staff of IOR. Cardinal Pell finished by announcing the expansion of the composition of the superintendents of the bank. Among them, His Eminence Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, as well as half a dozen lay members. They include: Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, Mr. Clemens Boersig, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Deutsche Bank Foundation, Prof. Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Sir Michael Hintze, a British businessman, philanthropist and former Australian army officer who has over 30 years’ experience in global financial markets as well as two member who have yet to be named.