Earlier this week, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had set up a “Commission for Reference” or board of inquiry for the Institute for Works of Religion – the Vatican Bank. The IOR, as it is called, has been rocked by a number of scandals of the past few years.
According to an announcement put out by the Vatican, the Commission “developed from the Holy Father’s wish to be better acquainted with the juridical status and activities of the Institute, so as to enable the said Institute to be more in tune with the mission of the universal Church and of the Apostolic See, in the broader context of the reforms it would be opportune to implement for institutions that provide assistance to the Apostolic See … The purpose of the Commission is to collect information on the functioning of the Institute and to present the results to the Holy Father.”
Pope Francis wanted to know what was going on inside the bank. And his curiosity could not have reared at a more appropriate time.
A senior Vatican cleric was arrested Friday for helping rich friends smuggle cash from Switzerland to Italy. The official, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration. According to Reuters, the investigation that led to his arrest reads like a Dan Brown novel, including an Italian Secret Service agent, wiretaps, burned cellphones, and 40 million Euros in cash.
An investigation of the Vatican bank on suspicion of money laundering led to the discovery of this plot. The conspirators in the case were trying to smuggle the cash out of Switzerland and into Italy in a private plane. The cash never left the country due to suspicions and disagreements among the conspirators. But one of them insisted on being paid for his part in the plot anyway. He was written two checks by the Monsignor, one of which Scarano then reported stolen.
A Vatican spokesman has pledged their full cooperation in the investigation, but has said that no requests have come so far.