After news that an Italian court has ordered an investigation into the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR, Holy See Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi SJ wrote the following letter which was published in today's edition of the British newspaper, Financial Times.
"Yesterday the IOR (Institute of Religious Works) returned to international media attention in the wake of a surprise investigation by the Procurator's Office in Rome.
"Given that the activities of the IOR take place at an international level, and that its President is a well respected figure, well-known in the world of international finance, it is appropriate that I, as the head of the Holy See's Press Office, should seek to clarify matters in order to avoid the spread of inaccurate information and to ensure that no damage is caused to the activities of the Institute or the good name of its managers.
"The IOR is not a bank in the normal definition of the term. It is an Institute that administers the assets of Catholic institutions; institutions whose goal is to further a religious and charitable apostolate at an international level. The IOR is located within the territory of Vatican City State; in other words, beyond the jurisdiction and surveillance of the various national banks.
"Its particular status means that its position in the system and the regulations of international finance requires a series of agreements in order to establish the procedures necessary for the Holy See to be included in the White List - this is especially true in light of the new norms laid down by the European Union to combat terrorism and money laundering.
"From the day of his appointment, and in accordance with the specific mandate he received from the highest Vatican authorities and from the IOR Inspection Committee, President Gotti Tedeschi has been working with great commitment to ensure the absolute transparency of the IOR's activities, and their compliance for the norms and procedures which will allow the Holy See to be included in the White List. To this end, intense and fruitful contacts are ongoing with the Bank of Italy, the European Union and with the
competent international bodies: OECD and GAFI.
"It is for this reason that the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the official communiqué it released on Tuesday, expressed its perplexity and amazement at this investigation by the Procurator's Office in Rome, which has come at a time in which this commitment is being clearly shown and these contacts are being made in order to reach lasting solutions as soon as possible.
"The nature and aims of the transactions under investigation could have been clarified with great simplicity, being cash transactions the beneficiary of which is the Institute itself, on accounts it holds at other credit institutions. The current problem was caused by a misunderstanding (now being examined) between the IOR and the bank which received the transfer order.
"Thus the Holy See reiterates its complete confidence in the managers of the IOR, and its desire for complete transparency in the financial operations the Institute undertakes, in accordance with the procedures and norms required today to ensure the security and transparency of transactions in the field of international finance".
See also: Head of Vatican bank named in investigation www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=16765