De Franssu Discusses the Numbers, Jobs, and Sins of the 'Vatican Bank'

New IOR President Gives Interview to French Broadcaster, Admits Mafia Used IOR to Launder Money

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The numbers, the jobs and the sins of the IOR: no doublespeak for Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, who this morning answered Jean-Pierre Elkabbach’s questions “on the microphone” of the French broadcaster, Europe 1. Now the second day of his new job as President of the Vatican’s commercial bank, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), De Frenssu is the first Frenchman to ever head the Institute since its founding in 1942. 

On IOR’s figures and its clients

“Today the Institute manages 6 billion euros for all its clients, under different forms: 2 billion euros of deposits, 3.4 billion under the form of management products, and there is also the deposit of assets.

“Today the Institute has 15,500 clients.”

“After Benedict XVI, followed by Pope Francis, wished to have greater transparency and adherence to the international principles in the financial area, around 2,000 accounts were closed.”

The IOR’s purpose

“This Institute was created in 1942, during the War, a time when the Holy See was cut off from the world, having as its mission to serve the different Congregations and dioceses around the world, as well as the persons who worked in the Vatican.”

“The commercial bank (…) has two great jobs: the first is to offer services in the matter of bank payments for the Congregations and the dioceses around the world, and the persons who work in the Vatican; the second is to manage their patrimony, the patrimony of these institutions and these individuals.”

“They can entrust them to the IOR but they can [also] entrust them to other establishments. Obviously, insofar as they entrust them to the IOR, they do so as an undertaking of shared ethical values.”

“They can entrust to the Vatican the management of part of their wealth. This is what it’s about.”

“The end of this Institution is to serve the Holy See, the Congregations and the dioceses, in a voluntary undertaking, with persons who are in the Holy See, laymen or men of God.”

“If you are not an employee or a retired person of the Vatican, you can no longer have an account in the IOR Institute.”

“Because, as a banking or management establishment we have rules. We have principles, clients on whom we concentrate. We try not to be dispersed.”

“Yes, it has commercial relations with other establishments around the world and that will continue.”

“The objective, notably, is to earn money. However, it is not a commercial enterprise as any other. It is an Institute that is there to serve the Holy See, and in the framework of the activities carried out, it is obvious that we will earn money — all this to enable the Holy Father and the Church to help the poor and propagate the faith.”

(Micro-credit?) “The question was already posed by my predecessor and I shall explore it again. It is certain that, given her presence in the poorest countries, the Church has a role to play in this area.”

“I haven’t at all envisioned acquisitions for Pope Francis [Prior to joining IOR, De Frenssu ran his own mergers and acquisitions consultancy], and what I have been asked to do has no relation to those sort of activities. However, all that I will be asked to aim at will be to give the clients of this Institute the quality products and services that they have a right to expect.”

The sins of the IOR

<p>“I think there is a sort of exaggeration, a focusing on this establishment which has been very great. This being said, there is never smoke without fire. There were operations that were criminal in the past, but that’s behind us.”

(Hidden embezzlements that yielded much?)

“Much, I don’t know, but in any case they cost the Church much. Yes, there were embezzlements.”

(It is said that the Italian Mafia came to the Vatican to launder its money).

“Many things have been said.”

(It has also been said that there were dead).

“Yes, it has also been said.”

(It has been said but it’s true?).

“It’s true.”

In regard to Pope Francis

“The Pope is guided by three great principles in regard to administrative and financial activities: transparence, responsibility and zero tolerance.”

“He won’t protect anyone.”

“It’s very simple: transparency, always more transparency, responsibility and zero tolerance on all the activities carried out by the Institute.”

“We have worked very fast but we have above all an authority that is very exacting and that wants rapid results. And that’s the Holy Father.”

“The Pope is very active. We have had the joy, the honor and the opportunity to work with him several times. We have always had before us someone who listens to us very attentively and has guided our reflections with the ambition of having the Curia at Rome evolve.

“He has listened a lot; he is a man who listens. But he also spoke, expressed his opinions. He guided us in the reflections we made.”

“He said to us: ‘I don’t like money, but I need it to help the poor … and I need money for the propagation of the faith.’”

“He has done me an immense honor. Being a practicing Catholic, it’s something that is very dear to me. He is a man who is totally dedicated. In the world in which we live where, too often, increasingly things are no longer important, here is a 77 year-old man who works day and night and has given his life for the common good. He is an authority, and impressive personality, who has a great focus and knows where to go for the common good. We have always had very precise relations.

“Look at those extraordinary moments of that meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres in the Vatican Gardens a few weeks ago. One saw that authority; it was present. Who could have done what he did in that framework? Once again, in today’s world, where one is permanently subjected to power games, to see a personality that stands out with such authority, is very remarkable.”

The Great Reform

“From now on there is a Minister of the Economy at the Holy See. This is part of the recommendations we made. The Ministry is next door to the State Secretariat, concentrated on diplomatic and religious affairs. The Secretariat of the Economy takes care of the economic and administrative dossiers.”

Laymen in the Church

“This is one of the Holy Father’s big subjects. More laymen should be involved in the life of the Church, and more particularly in the administrative and economic area. And as the Holy See is the universal Church, more laymen of the whole world, more women, more men should represent the Church around the world. If you saw the other announcements made yesterday, [you know that] a certain number of technical committees were put in place, with people from Latin America, Europe, Asia …

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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