Further Measures Needed To Combat Financial Crime At Vatican, Pope Says

March 30, 2021

By Anand Vasu

Pope Francis has said that laws must reflect “the equality of all members of the church,” indicating that further reforms of the Vatican City penal code were likely, especially to deal with financial crimes.

In a March 27 meeting with judges, prosecutors, investigators and other members of the Vatican’s state tribunal, the pope stressed on international cooperation in investigations with a view to facilitate an accurate exchange of information in a timely manner.

The pope recommended doing away with “privileges that go back in time and are no longer in keeping with the responsibility of each for building up of the church,” Catholic News Service reported.

This comes on the back of a London judge overturning a court order that had frozen the assets of a financier being investigated by the Vatican for extortion, fraud and money laundering.

That case was over the Vatican’s purchase of a of multimillion-dollar property in London’s Chelsea neighborhood.

The judge, in his 42-page judgment, said in the third week of March that the Vatican’s application contained “material non-disclosures and misrepresentations” that were, “in some instances, egregious,” when they asked that the assets of Gianluigi Torzi be frozen. Luigi brokered the sale of the property.

Pope Francis said that the changes brought about over the past eight years in the Vatican’s criminal code would be more effective “to the degree that they are accompanied by further penal reforms, especially for combatting and repressing financial crimes, and by the intensification of other activities aimed at making international cooperation between the investigative organs of the Vatican and analogous institutions of other nations simpler and speedier.”

While calling for the Catholic church to conduct its business in an exemplary manner, Pope Francis said that laws in place alone were not enough. He said that everyone involved needed to be “inspired by the founding principles of ecclesial life and, at the same time, takes into account the parameters and good practices in force on the international level.”

Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, joined members of the tribunal for both the Mass and the audience with the pope. Draghi took office in February.

A week ago, Pope Francis had called upon people to fight back against organized crime, such as the mafia. This came after Interpol warned in December that organized crime was targeting the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Mafias are present in various parts of the world and, taking advantage of the pandemic, they are enriching themselves through corruption,” Francis was quoted as saying in his weekly Sunday address by Reuters.

Italian police had warned that criminal organizations were using the pandemic to lean on families in financial trouble, offering loans and food in an attempt to eventually co-opt them into their criminal enterprise.

“These structures of sin, mafia structures, are against the gospel and mistake idolatry for faith,” Pope Francis said. “Let us remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias,” he remarked, referring to the 2014 incident in the town of Oppido Martima where a procession carrying the statue of the Madonna was diverted to a mob boss’s home and tilted as if to kneel in a sign of respect.