Pope Francis has chosen a senior executive from Italy’s central bank as the next leader of the Vatican’s financial authority.
Carmelo Barbagallo, who has spent forty years at the Bank of Italy rising to become a managing director with responsibility for supervision, today started his job as President of the Vatican Information Authority, known as “AIF”.
He takes up the role at a crunch moment for the Pope’s financial reforms and succeeds René Brüelhart who left the post last week after seven years of service. Next month, the Holy See is due to send a report to Moneyval, the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering watchdog, which will be followed up by an inspection early next year.
The AIF has come under pressure in recent weeks after its offices were raided on 1 October by Vatican police in connection with a property transaction in London. It led to the suspension of the regulator’s director, Tomasso di Ruzza, who the AIF later insisted had done nothing wrong.
But the raid of the AIF caused the Egmont Group, an informal network of countries which share financial information, to suspend the Holy See from their body and signalled an internal power struggle for control over the Vatican’s finances.
Speaking to reporters on board the plane returning to Japan, the Pope stressed the Vatican’ financial checks were working given that the suspicions about the London deal were raised internally rather than coming from an external body.
Francis is now placing his trust in Barbagallo, 63, to continue the work started by Brüelhart ensuring the Holy See’s financial activities are regulated to internationally respected standards.
“In carrying out my service of responsibility in leading the AIF I will work to bring all my experience accumulated in forty years working at the Bank of Italy, as an inspector, as head of vigilance of the Italian banking and financial sector and in the context of the supervision of the European banking system,” Barbagallo told Vatican News upon his appointment.
“I am sure that the AIF will be able to give its own contribution in its role as a supervisory authority, so that the fundamental values of fairness and transparency of all the financial movements in which the Holy See is engaged may continue to be affirmed and recognised.”
He added: “I intend to reassure the international system of financial information that all cooperation will be given in full respect of the best international standards. I will be at work already today to ensure continuity in the work of the AIF in pursuing its important institutional objectives.”
Barbagallo joined the Bank of Italy in 1980 starting as a junior supervisor in the Genoa branch. On 1 July 2019, he was appointed Managing Director with responsibility for advising the governing board on matters of “financial supervision and regulation.”