The financial reforms of the Holy See are “irreversible” and have ensured there are no more “pools of darkness in the Vatican”, the papal treasurer has said.
Cardinal George Pell, who is Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told The Tablet: “The Vatican is committed to transparency, international cooperation and the use of contemporary international standards in financial reporting.”
He pointed out, however, that the “full implementation of such changes will take time” and that work needed to be done to bring expenditure under control.
Last week, the Holy See announced that an audit by PricewaterhouseCooopers (PwC) would no longer take place and they would instead assist an internal Auditor General with the work.
Cardinal Pell, who helped commission the original audit from PwC, said the new arrangement “is not a rejection of financial reform” but instead “a recognition that the many challenges in transitioning to full implementation must fit the context and a way forward is being found.”
The 75-year-old Australian cardinal was brought over from Sydney by the Pope to help lead a clean up of Holy See finances. His new department has fought hard to implement budgets and financial transparency.
Pell said that the Vatican now prepares one overarching budget, monitors expenditure meaning that the Holy See knows where it stands financially. He added that the work culture was changing with development programmes led by Georgetown University, in the United States.
“The vast majority of the financial staff appreciate the modernisation and are cooperating happily,” he said in a statement.
But the cardinal said more needed to be done to streamline budgeting and expenditure as well as battling significant “cash deficits” over the last three years. He added that hundreds of millions of euros were needed to fund a shortfall in the pension fund.
“The Vatican financial situation is not critical, but we face significant challenges, which can be met,” Pell explained.
He also praised the leadership of Jean Baptiste de Franssu, the director of the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) - known as the Vatican bank - who had done “an excellent clean out job.” Pell added, however, that it was suffering from adverse global market conditions and therefore not contributing as much to the Holy See as it had in the past.
The cardinal, who submitted his resignation to the Pope last week after reaching the retirement age of 75, has said he will continue in office until 2019.
He said: “Pope Francis continues to insist that the financial reforms must continue.”