As interviews with the Vatican Bank’s president, Ernst Von Freyberg, multiply, general director, Paolo Cipriani, says the Church needs the IOR because without it, it would lack freedom. Meanwhile, the Vatican is choosing to invest money in consultants and advisors
ANDREA TORNIELLI Taken from Vatican Insider
The Church’s financial independence is not only “essential”, it is “an obligation”, the Vatican Bank (IOR)’s general director Paolo Cipriani said in a surprise comment to Italian newspaper Il Giornale. The interview was part of the IOR’s media strategy, featuring the bank’s new German president, Ernst von Freyberg, as a protagonist on more than one front. After Ettore Gotti Tedeschi’s brutal dismissal, the Vatican hired prestigious global executive search firm Spencer Stuart to select the IOR’s leaders and chose von Freyberg as top man.
Von Freyberg was selected at the last minute, after Benedict XVI had announced his resignation. According to Vatican Radio, three months after he was hired, von Freyberg started holding “a series of interviews with qualified representatives of the international press,” including newspapers and news agencies such as the Financial Times, Le Figaro, Reuters and Associated Press.
Three key messages emerged from the interviews with von Freyberg. Firstly, the President of the IOR has not spoken to the new Pope in person about the bank, despite the fact that he stays at St. Martha’s House when he is in Rome. Secondly, the Vatican Bank’s main problem is not to do with its previous management (the bank’s operations were picked to pieces by the judiciary) or its suspicious accounts. Its real problem is its image and communication. This is why one of the first decisions von Freyberg took was to hire an external company to help with Vatican communications, despite the fact that the Holy See already has a Press Office, a Pontifical Council for Communication, a newspaper, a radio and television broadcaster and as of last year, a communications advisor for the Secretariat of State, the American journalist Greg Burke. CNC – Communications & Network Consulting was chosen as the Vatican’s communications company.
In the interviews, von Freyberg has revealed that thousands of IOR bank accounts were closed down over the past year and that these are currently undergoing inspection, by American giant Promonotory, which has also done work for the White House.
Another important piece of information von Freyberg communicated during his interviews is that he is working well and is totally in tune with the Vatican Bank’s current management. Not everyone in the Holy See sees this as a positive thing. And Cipriani’s comments about how “essential” the IOR is to the Church’s mission and about the Church’s obligation to have a bank, added to this.
It is worth remembering that both before and after the Conclave, certain influential cardinals claimed the opposite. The Honduran, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, whom the Pope appointed as head of the group of eight cardinals who are supposed to help him govern the universal Church and advise him on Curia reform, publicly stated that the group would also lend a hand with the IOR. As rumours spread about the Italian judiciary introducing legal measures that could apply to IOR managers in the context of the open inquiry into the bank’s activities, it is impossible to ignore the constant references being made to these issues, even by the Pope himself, in his homilies.
The general impression one gets from this media frenzy, is that despite the messages being sent out to the public and within the Vatican (Cipriani’s comments on how essential the IOR is for the Church seems to belong to the second category) the full picture is not being given. Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano recently revealed that the Vatican Financial Information Authority’s director, René Bruelhart, receives a salary of 35,000 Euros a month, plus 5,000 Euros for expenses. The Vatican Secretariat of State hired Mr. Bruelhart last November to solve the IOR’s transparency issues.