Vatican's Move to Financial Transparency Rewarded

$33M Unfrozen; Aide Affirms Holy See's Commitment to Continue

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ROME, JUNE 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Italian authorities have lifted a freeze on funds of the Institute for the Works of Religion amounting to $33 million (€23 million).

The institute, known as the Vatican Bank, was subjected to the money freeze last September when an investigation was launched about the directors' accordance with European money laundering laws.

The Vatican reacted with surprise to the freeze and defended the institute's authorities; but it also began efforts to bring the bank into conformity with European Union rules, while taking into account the particular nature of the Vatican legal system.

The decision to release the funds reflects this Vatican move to ensure complete financial transparency, an effort that brought the Pope to sign four new laws and establish the Financial Information Authority, an autonomous and independent body with the task of preventing and countering money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

A statement from the offices of Rome's attorney general noted the "important changes" that the Vatican has made "at the normative and institutional level."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, welcomed the restoration of the monies, saying it confirms the "correctness with which IOR wishes to operate" and points to the "seriousness of the [Holy See's] commitment" to uphold international standards.

Father Lombardi noted how the Financial Information Authority has been staffed with professionals and given adequate directive powers "to continue with determination and coherence the process undertaken."

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On ZENIT's Web page:

More information on Vatican efforts:

-- Commentary on the four new finance laws and the establishment of the Financial Information Authority: www.zenit.org/article-31379?l=english

-- Profile of the director chosen for the Financial Information Authority: www.zenit.org/article-31956?l=english

-- Explanation of the decision to freeze the funds: www.zenit.org/article-30730?l=english