Pope Establishes Agency to Oversee Vatican Funds
Holy See Aims to Coincide With International Measures
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- With an apostolic letter and a convention between Vatican City State and the European Union, the Vatican is making efforts to ensure complete financial transparency.
Last Thursday, a Secretary of State communiqué and an apostolic letter signed by Benedict XVI announced four new laws on laundering and counterfeiting and the establishment of the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria (Financial Information Authority).
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said the apostolic letter is a "document of a type a little unusual for [the Pope], but one of great courage and of great moral and spiritual significance."
"This is a good way to conclude the year: with a step towards transparency and credibility," Father Lombardi suggested.
The four laws will enter into force on April 1 and they concern themes ranging from the prevention of terrorism financing, to counterfeiting Euro banknotes and coins and their irregular reproduction, and the copyright of designs on Euro coins.
The structure of the law on laundering, the communiqué noted, takes into account "the specificity of the Vatican legal system into which it is inserted," and "conforms to the principles and rules in force throughout the European Union." It stated that the law is in conformity with the norms of other nations, which have "more developed rules in this regard."
Furthermore, the Holy See, which is "legally distinct from Vatican City State" and "which directs entities and institutions active in various areas, has adopted as its own the 'Law concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities and of the financing of terrorism,'" the communiqué explained.
The Holy See's adoption of the measures was accomplished through the Pope's apostolic letter, which also established the Financial Information Authority. The letter dictates that these financial measures apply to the Roman Curia and all of the institutions dependent on the Holy See, including the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, also known as the Vatican Bank.
The inclusion of the Vatican Bank is to confirm its "firm intention to operate according to principles and criteria which are internationally recognized," the communiqué stated.
The Pope noted in the letter, "Unfortunately, peace in our time and in an increasingly globalized society is threatened by various causes, among them the inappropriate use of the market and the economy, as well as the terrible destruction of terrorist violence, which causes death, suffering, hatred and social instability."
He lauded the international community for "increasingly equipping itself with juridical principles and instruments that enable it to prevent and contrast the phenomena of money laundering and the financing of terrorism."
"The Holy See approves this commitment and intends to adopt these rules in its own use of the material resources it needs to carry out its mission, and to carry out the tasks of Vatican City State," the Holy Father affirmed.
As to the Financial Information Authority, the communiqué explained that it is an "autonomous and independent body with the specific task of preventing and countering the laundering of money and the financing of terrorism with respect to each subject, both legal and physical, entity and institution of whatever nature, of Vatican City State, of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of all the other institutions and entities dependent on the Holy See."
Its president and governing council will be appointed by the Pope.
"Experience will help to refine and integrate the new norms concerning the prevention and countering of money-laundering and the financing of terrorism in accordance with the principles and the standards in force in the international community; such need might derive from the Holy See’s and Vatican City State’s openness to deal with competent international instances in countering both money-laundering and the financing of terrorism," the communiqué added.
Finally, citing "Caritas in Veritate" the Secretariat of State affirmed: "These new Laws are part of the Apostolic See’s efforts to build a just and honest social order. At no time may the great principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility be neglected or weakened."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of Papal apostolic letter: www.zenit.org/article-31377?l=english
Full text of communiqué: www.zenit.org/article-31378?l=english
On the Net:
Text of new laws (in Italian): www.vatican.va/vatican_city_state/legislation/documents/scv_doc_20101230_legge_it.html