The IOR could have a new head soon as the Institute’s restructuring process is about to get underway and as Ernst Von Freyberg’s mandate comes to an end: the Vatican is seeking a full time manager
GIACOMO GALEAZZI ANDREA TORNIELLI Taken from Vatican Insider
He was nominated in extremis in February 2013 after the announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation. He came from Germany to lift the image of the IOR, the Vatican Institute for the Works of Religion, which has been president-less for nine months following the ousting of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi right in the midst of the Vatileaks scandal in 2012. But now his position is looking increasingly precarious. Ernst Von Freyberg, the German lawyer-entrepreneur at the helm of the “Vatican bank”, could be leaving his post in the next few weeks.
Given the precedents that have been occurred within the IOR, what immediately comes to one’s mind are power struggles and groups contesting the much coveted control of the “Vatican bank”. Recent episodes such as the gift of 15 million Euros, which Ettore Bernabei gave to Lux Vide, demonstrate that the IOR’s financial resources have been used to fund all sorts of different operations. In actual fact, the explanation is at once simpler and more complex: Simpler because by now, everyone in the Holy See is talking about the need for a full time president for the IOR instead of a part time one. Von Freyberg is in Rome on average three days a week and has not moved his family over from Germany; he has a business to run. More complex, because misunderstandings over the internal management of the IOR are allegedly at the root of the president’s potential exit.
Readers will recall that thanks to the Institute’s dedicated, professional press office after Von Freyberg took up his post, to a media campaign was launched to promote transparency. In his first interview, he spoke about the excellent team he was forming, together with director general Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli. Not long after this, the two were forced to leave the IOR. This happened exactly one year ago, in light of the developments in the inquiry into Mgr. Nunzio Scarano. But the minor media incident did not call into question the Vatican leaders’ trust in Freyberg. Freyberg had set the ball rolling for a series of important consultations and tasks assigned to external firms.
Mgr. Battista Ricca played a key role in the whole affair. Pope Francis nominated him interim prelate of the IOR and according to the statute, he was in charge of maintaining the link between the IOR and the commission of cardinals in charge of overseeing the Institute. It was Ricca who wrote a letter to Von Freyberg in recent weeks, criticizing him for not always sending all information requested by the cardinals’ commission on time, for example in the case of the consultation service provided by Promontory Financial Group (hired to review the “Vatican bank’s” finances) and the progress made in bringing the IOR in line with anti-money laundering standards.
According to a number of Vatican sources, the new Secretary for the Economy led by Australian cardinal George Pell would also tend for a replacement and would aim to keep the IOR even more in check, taking a more managerial and modern approach to the Institute’s reform and simplifying its structure. This reform process could involve the partial or total replacement of the “Vatican bank’s” heads.
The coming days are going to be crucial in terms of what will finally happen: the Council of Cardinals (the C8) tasked with the reform of the Roman Curia is holding a meeting that will run until Friday. The commission of cardinals overseeing the IOR and the Council for the Economy are also expected to meet. Von Freyberg’s mandate is almost at an end, as are those of the entire board. Von Freyberg was only called in to complete the five-year term begun by Gotti Tedeschi in September 2009.