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Simmering Vatican Bank Scandals Await Pope Francis

By John Morgan   |   Thursday, 14 Mar 2013 02:20 PM

The Vatican is not only the world’s largest religious institution, it is also a troubled business enterprise, according to CBS News.

The traditional secrecy surrounding the Vatican’s finances is apparently complicating efforts to clean things up.

“Behind great ecclesiastical pageants, like former Pope Benedict's farewell, there are back-room financial scandals at Vatican Inc.,” CBS reported.

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At the center of the intrigue is the Vatican Bank.

“The church's various departments, its priests and employees keep accounts here; secret accounts, hidden from the prying eyes of international regulators,” CBS said.

The Vatican Bank is so secretive that even some insiders cannot penetrate its facade.

South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier, who sits on a committee that is charged with approving the bank’s books, said he cannot obtain the necessary information to do so.

"I am one of those 15 cardinals that sit on that committee and we sign our name to the report. I want to know that I am signing something that is actually reflecting the truth," Napier told CBS.

Vatican watcher Marco Politi told CBS that Mafia money had been recycled through the Vatican bank, along with bribe money for Italian politicians. An Italian court investigating the bank confirmed documents showing some accounts were indeed used for money laundering.

An Italian financier brought in to fix the bank’s problems was fired when he made no progress. Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, who helped clean up other European banks, is now on the scene.

Whatever needs to be done, it will have to wait until newly elected Pope Francis gets settled in.

Although Pope Emeritus Benedict issued a papal edict to try to get the Vatican Bank to modernize, the bank remains one of the major issues waiting for Pope Francis, CBS News reported.

According to The New York Times, the cardinals were informed ahead of the Papal conclave to elect the pope on the Vatican’s finances and have been debating whether a member of the Vatican hierarchy or an outsider would be better at imposing order.

At last count in 2011, the Vatican Bank had 20,772 clients, 68 percent of them members of the clergy, and $8.2 billion in assets under its management. However, the bank has said it has around 33,000 accounts, The Times reported.

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The Vatican is not only the world’s largest religious institution, it is also a troubled business enterprise, according to CBS News.

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