Tuesday, December 6, 2022  –  Feast of St. Nicholas

A somewhat puzzling motu proprio written by Pope Francis was published today by the Vatican.   I read the original in Italian several times in an effort to understand the focus and scope of the motu. I also read the English-language Vatican news story.

Questions still abound.

The Italian words, for example, “persone giuridiche strumentali” were translated as “instrumental juridical persons.” I went online and could not find a definition for those words. Google had one reference – the Vatican news story!

I then sought translations of just two words – “persone giuridiche” – and this resulted in “legal entities” and this somewhat clarified matters.

But the big mystery remains. Specifically who, what are these entities of which the motu speaks? What bodies, foundations, offices or organizations will henceforth be subject to the control of the Roman Curia’s economic bodies, as you see in the title of the Vatican news story?

No specific names of “entities” were given in either of the two documents published today (the second being the promulgation of a law by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State): hopefully there will be an update from the press office or another office.

The Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook), under the category Fondazione (Foundations) lists the following: Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontefice; Fundacja Jana Pawla II; Giovanni Paolo II per il Sahel; Giovanni Paolo II per la Gioventu; Giustizia e Pace; Gravissmus Educationis; Il Buon Samaritano; Nostra Aetate; Popolorum Progressio; Per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali e Artistiche della Chiesa; San Giovanni XXIII; Scienze e Fede-STOQ; Fond. Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger-Benedetto XVI; Fond. Vaticana “Centro Internazionale Famiglia di Nazareth.”

By the way, Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals have been meeting in the Vatican for two days.

File photo: Pope Francis signing Motu proprio “Aperuit illis” instituting Sunday of the Word of God


Pope Francis issues a Motu Proprio concerning entities established within curial institutions and hitherto enjoying a certain administrative autonomy, extending the new regulations also to entities based in the Vatican City State.

By Andrea De Angelis

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.”

Pope Francis quotes Lk 16:10 at the start of the Motu Proprio released on Tuesday concerning instrumental juridical persons, including funds, foundations and entities that refer to the Holy See, and are registered in the list referred to in Article 1 § 1 of the Statute of the Council for the Economy, and having their headquarters in Vatican City State.

Control and supervision

“Although these entities have a formally separate juridical personality and a certain administrative autonomy, it must be recognized,” the Pope says, “that they are instrumental in the realization of the ends proper to the curial institutions at the service of the ministry of the Successor of Peter and that, therefore, unless otherwise stated by the norms establishing them in some way, they too are public entities of the Holy See.”

Therefore, since their temporal goods are part of the patrimony of the Apostolic See, “it is necessary,” reads the Motu proprio, “that they be subject not only to the supervision of the Curial Institutions from which they depend, but also to the control and surveillance of the Economic Bodies of the Roman Curia.”

In this way, instrumental juridical persons will be “clearly distinguished from other foundations, associations and nonprofit entities” that are “born from the initiative of private individuals and are not instrumental to the realization of the ends proper to the Curial Institutions.”

Existing instrumental juridical persons will have to comply with the provisions of the Motu Proprio within three months of its entry into force, which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8, 2022.

The role of the Secretariat for the Economy

The Motu Proprio consists of eight articles. The third deals with supervision and control in economic and financial matters, establishing that the Secretariat for the Economy exercises supervision and control over instrumental juridical persons in accordance with its statutes and, within its competence, adopts or recommends the adoption by instrumental juridical persons of appropriate measures for the prevention and combating of criminal activities.

The fourth and fifth articles regulate accounting records and the exchange of information, stipulating, among other things, that instrumental legal persons must submit the budget and the final financial statements to the Secretariat for the Economy within the deadlines set by the same Secretariat, and providing that the Secretariat for the Economy and the Office of the Auditor General may always access accounting records, supporting documents, and information on financial transactions.

Article 6 deals with the dissolution and devolution of assets, and specifies how an instrumental juridical person is suppressed and placed in liquidation by decree of the curial institution from which it canonically depends, when its purpose has been fulfilled or it has become impossible or contrary to the law, or, in the case of associations, when the reduction in the number of their associates prevents their functioning.

In view of the need to provide an organic and up-to-date discipline to legal persons based in the Vatican, the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State also promulgated a law – which enters into force on 8 December 2022 – that extends the application of the Motu Proprio to entities of the Vatican City State.

However, curial institutions and offices of the Roman Curia, institutions connected with the Holy See, the Governorate of Vatican City State, and entities professionally engaged in activities of a financial nature are excluded from the scope of the law.

These measures are in line with the reforms outlined by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Constitution Predicate Evangelium.