Vatican bank publishes accounts for first time

Vatican bank publishes accounts for first time
The tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican bank.

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican bank published its accounts for the first time on Tuesday in a new drive for transparency aimed at overcoming a series of scandals as Pope Francis plans a major overhaul.

The Institute for Works of Religion, also known as IOR under its Italian acronym, said its earnings for 2012 were 86.6 million euros (S$146 million) - more than four times higher than in 2011.

"At the IOR, we are working hard on our part of the reform process: improving organisation, compliance and transparency," said Ernst von Freyberg, the bank's president who was appointed this year.

He said the earnings for 2013 would be impacted by spending linked to reforms at the bank, which is also due to complete an audit on compliance with money-laundering rules by the end of the year.

The IOR has long had a reputation for secrecy and intrigue, going back to the 1970s and 1980s with the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, where the Holy See was the main shareholder, which was accused of laundering money for the Sicilian mafia.

The chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi - dubbed "God's Banker" in the press - was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in a suspected murder by mobsters for which no one has ever been convicted.

More recently the bank has been investigated for money laundering by Italian authorities and its director general and his deputy were placed under investigation and forced to resign this year.

Pope Francis, who has called for a "poor Church for the poor", in June set up a pontifical commission to analyse the bank and propose ways to reform it.

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