Pope Centralizes Management of Vatican Funds After Scandals

Pope Francis stripped the Vatican’s equivalent to the prime minister’s office of its powers to directly manage funds, completing an overhaul prompted by a string of financial scandals.

The move to curb the Secretariat of State, which had been announced earlier this year, came in a Motu Proprio decree signed on Dec. 26. The management of financial investments and real estate holdings owned by the department has been transferred to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, or Apsa -- roughly equivalent to a treasury and central bank.

The Secretariat of State’s assets amount to around 350 million euros ($430 million), a senior official told Bloomberg earlier this month. Apsa will also be in charge of the administration of Peter’s Pence, which manages charitable donations to the pope from around the world.

The funds’ opaque management sparked a series of embarrassing scandals for the Vatican, including the questionable investment in 2014 of a former Harrods warehouse in London’s affluent Chelsea neighborhood, slated to become luxury apartments. Francis has dismissed five Vatican employees over the deal, and an investigation has been launched to determine whether the bureaucrats were scammed or if they themselves profited.

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