Vatican Bank shake-up
by Vivienne Hewitt in Rome FROM next year, for the first time since its foundation, a layman could head the Vatican Bank, the Institute for Religious Works.
The controversial Chicagoborn Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, 6 5-year old President of Vatican finances for over 20 years, will be removed from the post, sources said.
The man tipped to take his place is Angelo Sironi, administrator of the Milanbased Banco Artigiano, founded in the twenties and closely connected with the Church in Milan. Mr Sironi already holds a Vatican position as administrator of the "Peregrinatio ad petri sedem", an organisation which supervises pilgrimages to Rome.
Vatican sources said Mr Sironi would take up his position at the IOR next spring
when the Pope's Roman curia reforms, announced last month, and also incorporating changes for the church bank, will be enforced (Catholic Herald, July 1).
Reports say the lOR's reform is contained in three basic points. It must lodge periodic reports to a council of 15 cardinals which the Pope created to examine Holy See finances, and which will be required to meet every six months. The Bank will have a new regulation code "still being defined", and the Pope will appoint a "control organism".
The control organism will be a joint lay-ecclesiastic commission comprising cardinals and financial banking experts. The lay consultants would be in the majority on the commission, sources said. They added that the Pope favoured this type of commission as opposed to a first proposal, formulated by
American and German cardinals, which would have transformed the IOR into an international share certificate company, making controls easier.
Other Vatican reports claimed that Archbishop Marcinkus, pro-president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, as well as church financial director, would become commission president on his removal from the Bank. The current pontifical commission president is Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, who is now 75 and who has already tendered his resignation on retirement grounds.
The Pope is reported to have asked him to stay on until next March, or April, when Archbishop Marcinkus would leave the bank in Mr Sironi's hands and take over from Cardinal Baggio as commission president. The reshuffling would mean that Archbishop Marcinkus would have to be made a cardinal in the next consistory which the Pope is already planning for 1990.
Archbishop Marcinkus became involved in a Milan bank scandal in 1982. The Banco Ambrosiano of which the Vatican was a shareholder, crashed with a fraudulent debt of £900 million, and its president, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging dead under Blackfriars Bridge in London.
As a worldwide treasure hunt for the missing cash continues, police maintain the money was filtered into ghost companies abroad for the personal gain of Mr Calvi and his cohorts. They included influential members of a now outlawed masonic lodge in Italy, publishers, industrialists . . . and Archbishop Marcinkus, police claim. All faced criminal court charges of complicity in the fraud.
In the last days before the Bank crashed, Mr Calvi, on whose death the London coroner's court returned first a suicide then an open verdict on appeal, asked the archbishop to waive the scandal by transferring church funds into the "hole" in the books.
Calvi held letters signed by Archbishop Marcinkus guaranteeing the cash "exported". On the basis of this evidence police issued two arrest warrants, later revoked, for the prelate who claimed Vatican diplomatic immunity.
Although the Vatican has always upheld the archbishop's claims of innocence, the Holy See paid over $200 million to the bankrupt Milan bank's creditors. The Church described the gesture at the time as a "donation and not an admission of guilt" in the Calvi affair.