Papal document on financial impropriety imminent

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Thursday plans to publish three important documents regarding its financial operations, including a papal letter on financial impropriety and a new statute to prevent money-laundering and other illegal practices.

The documents come several months after Italian treasury police, in a money-laundering probe, seized 23 million euros (US$30 million) that had been deposited in a Rome bank account by the Vatican bank.

The Vatican has been working for some time with Italian and international authorities to comply with procedures that ensure funds are not used for terrorism or money-laundering. The new documents apparently represent the fruit of those efforts.

In response to early and inaccurate leaks, the Vatican press office identified the new documents today:

— an apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI “concerning prevention and countermeasures against illegal activities in the financial and monetary sector.”

— a statute regarding the “Financial Information Authority.”

— a law concerning prevention and countermeasures against the laundering of funds from criminal activities and the financing of terrorism.

The Vatican said a lengthy communiqué would accompany the documents, to facilitate their “correct interpretation.”

In 2009, Pope Benedict named Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, an Italian banker and professor of financial ethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, as president of the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion. The appointment was seen at the time as a move toward greater transparency in the bank’s operations.

Italy’s seizure of Vatican bank funds in September upset Vatican officials, who said the operations in question were legitimate and documented. A statement issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State said the Vatican bank was committed to “full transparency” in its operations.

The Vatican bank was involved in a major Italian banking scandal in the 1980s, when fraud led to the collapse of Italy’s Banco Ambrosiano. Although denying wrongdoing, Vatican bank officials made what they called a “good-will payment” of about $240 million to the failed bank’s creditors.

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