Pope Francis’ economic czar, Australian Cardinal George Pell, is symbolically asserting his control over Vatican money by moving into the enormous office of the president of the Vatican bank.
Pell’s secretary, the Reverend Mark Withoos, confirmed the move on Friday.
He said the space is vacant and the cardinal wants to use “Vatican space wisely”.
Pell was named in February to head the Secretariat of the Economy, a new finance ministry created to improve efficiency, accountability and transparency in the Holy See’s administration. It is tasked with overseeing all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions.
Pell’s authority over the Vatican bank, however, hasn’t been clear since the bank is governed by a separate commission of cardinals.
The Secretariat of the Economy is located back in the Vatican gardens behind St Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, occupies prime Vatican real estate at one of the walled city-state’s main entrances.
The IOR presidents’ office was turned over last year to consultants of the Promontory Group who were conducting a lengthy review. Now that they have largely finished, the office had become vacant.
Pell wrote in The Catholic Herald this week that once the IOR reforms are complete, it will no longer really be the “Vatican bank,” as it will merely handle money from dioceses, religious orders and Vatican employees.
The Vatican’s assets, he said, will be held by the central treasury in another office.