POPE FRANCIS ON VATICAN FINANCES, INVESTMENTS AND PETER’S PENCE
Scrolling down the transcript from the Q&A session between Pope Francis and journalists aboard the papal flight from Tokyo to Rome, the reader comes to questions about Vatican finances, questionable transactions, possible corruption, and the use of Peter’s Pence funds for investments such as buying real estate.
Below is that exchange (not always an easy read in translation but you will get the general idea). Some of the names and terminology may not be clear unless you have followed reports in recent months and years about Vatican finances, the Vatican Bank, etc. The Vatican’s AIF is mentioned many times (Financial Information Authority): a new director was named yesterday – see previous blogs.
At the end of the papal exchange with the media, I look at what Peter’s Pence is, was meant to be and how it is apparently being used, at least in part.
Cristiana Caricato (TV2000, Italy): Holy Father, people read in the newspapers that the Holy See has acquired an apartment for hundreds of thousands of euros in the heart of London and they become a bit disconcerted, because of this use of Vatican finances. Also, in particular, because it involves Peter’s Pence. Did you know of these financial things? And above all, in your opinion, is it correct to use Peter’s Pence in that way? You have often said that money should not be made with money. You have often denounced the unscrupulous use of finances. However, we see that this operation involves the Holy See. This scandalizes in some way. How do you see this whole event?
Pope Francis: Thank you. First of all, in good administration it is normal for a sum to come from the Peter’s Pence, and what do I do? Put in a drawer? No, this is bad administration. But I look to make an investment, and when there is the need, to give… when there is the necessity, in one year, you take it. Your capital you do not devalue, if it maintains or if it grows a little. This is good administration.
If [it is] an administration of the drawer, it is bad. But you should try to make a good administration, a good investment. Is that clear?
Also an investment, as we say, an investment by widows? What do widows do? [Ed.note: An Italian saying] Two or three here, five here, if one falls, one of the others so that they are not ruined is always on security, this is always moral.
If from Peter’s Pence you invest in a weapons factory, the pence is not a pence there, eh?
If you make an investment and for years, without touching it, the capital does not go, Peter’s Pence should be spent in one year, one year and a half, until the other collection arrives which is made world-wide. And this is good management.
On security, and also, yes, you can buy a property, rent it, and then sell it. But, on security, with all of the securities, for the good of the people of the Pence. This one. Then, what happened, happend: A scandal. They have done things that do not seem ‘clean.’
But, the report did not come from the outside. That reform of the economic methodology, that Benedict XVI had already started, is going forward. And it was the auditor of the internal accounts to say’Here there is a bad thing. Here there is something that is not working.’ And he came to me. And I said, but are you sure? ‘Yes.’ And he let me see the numbers. ‘What should I do?’ [he asked]. [I said:] There is the Vatican justice. Go and give the report to the Promoter of Justice. And in this I remained content, because you see that the Vatican administration now has the resources to clarify the bad things which happen inside, like in this case, that — if it is not the case of the apartment in London, because this is not yet clear — but in that [other instance] there were cases of corruption.
And the Promoter of Justice studied the accusations, consulted, and saw an imbalance in the budget. And then, he asked me for permission to make the searches. I said: ‘Is it clear, your report?’ He told me, ‘yes, there is a presumption of corruption in these cases. I should carry out searches in this office, this office, and this office.’ And I signed the authorization.
The searches were done in five offices. And up to today, we have the presumption of innocence, but there is capital that is not administered well, also with corruption.
I believe that in less than two months they will begin questioning the five people who are blocked [suspended from the Vatican], because there were indications of corruption. You will ask me: ‘And these five are corrupt?’ No, the presumption of innocence is a guarantee, a human right. But, there is corruption, and you will see. With the searches you will see if they are guilty or not.
It’s a bad thing, it’s not good what is happening in the Vatican. But it is clear that the internal mechanisms are beginning to work, those that Benedict XVI had already started to make. And I thank God. I do not thank God that there is corruption, but I thank God that the Vatican monitoring system is working well.
Bruni (Holy See Press Office): The next question is from Phil Pullella of Reuters.
Pope Francis: [small talk]
Philip Pullella (Reuters): [small talk] If you permit me, I would like to follow a little on the question Cristiana asked, with a few more details.
There is a lot of worry in the last few weeks about what happened and about the finances of the Vatican. And according to some people, there is an internal war over who should control the money, according to some people. The majority of the members of the council of the AIF administration are dismissed. The Egmont Group, a group of these financial authorities have suspended of the Vatican, the secure communication […] The director of AIF is still suspended, as you said, and still there is no general revisore.
What can you do or say to guarantee to the international financial community, and to the faithful in general, who are called to contribute to Peter’s Pence, that the Vatican will not return to be considered a pariah, that is, to have trust you will continue and not return to the habits of the past?
Pope Francis: Thank you for the question. The Vatican has made steps forward in its administration, for example, the IOR today has the acceptance of all the banks and can act like the Italian banks, normal. Something that was not there a year ago. There is progress.
Then, the Egmont Group, that is not an official international group, a group to which the AIF belongs. And the international control does not depend on the Egmont Group, a private group that has its weight. It is a private group. And MONEYVAL will carry out the inspection it has scheduled for the first months of the next year and it will do it, it will do it.
The director of the AIF is in suspension because there were suspicions of bad administration. The president of AIF was strong with the Egmont Group to take back the documentation. And this the justice cannot do.
In the face of this, I consulted with an Italian judge of a high level. ‘What should I do?’ Justice in front of an accusation of corruption is sovereign in a country. It’s sovereign. And no one can involve themselves there inside. No one can say to the Egmont Group, ‘your papers are here.’ No, the papers should be studied, that they add up to what seems a bad administration, in the sense of a bad control.
It was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence.
And for the moment, the magistrates, the magistrate is sovereign. He should study how it went. Because on the contrary, a country should have a superior administration that would harm the sovereignty of the country.
And the [term of the] president of AIF was expiring [November] 19th. I would call him a few days before and he was not in agreement that I was re-calling him [as president of AIF] and he announced that the 19th he was leaving. I found a successor, a judge of the highest juridical and economic level, national and international, and at my return, he takes charge of AIF and things will continue like so.
It would have been a contradiction for the monitoring authority to be sovereign over the state. It is something which is not easy to understand, but what is a little disturbed is the Egmont Group, which is a private group. It helps a lot, but it is not the monitoring authority of MONEYVAL. MONEYVAL will study the numbers. It will study the procedures. It will study how […] the Promoter of Justice. And how the judges have determined the things.
I know that in these days the interrogation of the five who were suspended will begin or has already begun. It is not easy, but we should not be naive. We should not be slaves. Someone told me — but I do not believe it — but they said, ‘yes, with this, we have touched the Egmont Group. You scare the people . We are creating a little terrorism…’ Let’s leave that aside. We go forward with the law, with MONEYVAL, with the new president of AIF, and the director was suspended but maybe he is innocent. I would like that, because it is a beautiful thing [if] one is innocent and not guilty. I felt a little bit of noise with this group that was not wanting that the papers be touched that belong to the group.
Pullella: And a guarantee for the faithful that…?
Pope Francis: To guarantee this? Look, it’s the first time that in the Vatican the pot is discovered from the inside, not from the outside, From the outside many times. And they said look there and we had so much embarrassment. … But in this Pope Benedict was wise. And he began a process that matured and now the institutions that the auditor had the courage to make a written report against five people. …The auditor is working. Really, I do not want to offend the Egmont Group, because they did so much good, help, but in this case the state has sovereignty. And even justice is more sovereign then the executive power, more sovereign. It is not easy to understand but I ask you all to understand this difficulty.
PETER’S PENCE. Since the news was first published that some of Peter’s Pence donations were being used by the Vatican in real estate investments and possibly in some questionable dealings, the faithful have been wondering if they should continue to donate to what they thought was a Vatican office that assisted papal charities.
It is clear from media reports that the faithful have been talking about this to their pastors and bishops, and making comments via blogs, emails to columnists (such as myself), etc.
Below is the full link to the Vatican website about Peter’s Pence but here are a few of the main points of what the Vatican considers “An ancient custom still alive today,” and a collection “derived from the primitive Church. … This is in harmony with a tradition dating back to the Gospel (cf. Lk 10:7) and the teaching of the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 9:11-14)” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Cardinal Secretary of State, 20 November 1982).”
In particular, the website notes that, “In the first year of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the proper meaning of this offering: ‘Peter’s Pence’ is the most characteristic expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s charitable initiatives in favor of the universal Church. The gesture has not only a practical value, but also a strong symbolic one, as a sign of communion with the Pope and attention to the needs of one’s brothers; and therefore your service possesses a refined ecclesial character”. … The ecclesial value of this gesture becomes evident when one considers how charitable initiatives are connatural to the Church, as the Pope stated in his first Encyclical Deus caritas est (25 December 2005).”
Pope St. John Paul’s words to St. Peter’s Circle in 2003 are also quoted: “You are aware of the growing needs of the apostolate, the requirements of the ecclesial communities, especially in mission countries, and the requests for aid that come from peoples, individuals and families in precarious conditions. Many expect the Apostolic See to give them the support they often fail to find elsewhere. In this perspective the Peter’s Pence Collection is a true and proper participation in the work of evangelization, especially if one considers the meaning and importance of concretely sharing in the concerns of the universal Church.”
We also read: “The faithful’s offerings to the Holy Father are destined to Church needs, to humanitarian initiatives and social promotion projects, as well as to the support of the Holy See.”
Thus, if one looks at the historical aspect as well as the current meaning of Peter’s Pence, it is clear why the faithful might be confused about the ultimate destination of their contributions: will the money go to papal charities or real estate purchases (however much revenue they might bring to the Vatican, as the Pope noted) ?