Profits at the Vatican Bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, have decreased from 86 million euros in 2012 to 2.9 million euros last year after extensive internal reforms.

The Vatican bank is housed in the Bastion of Nicholas V in Vatican City. The space was formerly used as a papal prison. Profits at the bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works, have decreased from 86.6 million euros in 2012 to 2.9 million euros last year after extensive internal reforms.Photo courtesy IOR

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Profits plunged by more than $100 million at the Vatican bank last year after thousands of accounts were shut down in a radical overhaul of the scandal-scarred institution.

In its 2013 annual report released Tuesday (July 8), the bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, said its net profit totaled 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) last year, a dramatic drop from the 86.6 million euros ($117.8 million) it reported in 2012.

The bank said the slump was due to extraordinary expenses, losses related to externally managed investment funds and fluctuations in the price of gold.

Losses included a controversial $20.5 million loan granted to a production company owned by a friend of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Vatican secretary of state who has faced criticism for mismanagement as the church’s No. 2 official under retired Pope Benedict XVI.

The number of bank customers dropped from 18,900 in 2012 to 17,419 last year and has continued to fall this year. Around 3,000 accounts were closed, including 2,600 that were considered dormant.

In recent years, the bank has faced increasing pressure from European officials and the Bank of Italy to shed its reputation as an offshore haven and to adopt international guidelines designed to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

The bank said it has stepped up transparency and moved to restrict account access to Catholic institutions and clerics, Vatican employees and embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See in a bid to tighten control.

“I repeatedly said that I would proceed with zero tolerance for any suspicious activity,” bank President Ernst von Freyberg said in a statement. “We have carried out our reforms in this spirit.”

The bank released the new figures amid speculation that its board will be restructured and von Freyberg will be replaced on Wednesday. French businessman Jean-Baptiste de Franssu is expected to succeed von Freyberg; both men are due to attend a news conference with the Vatican’s economic overseer, Australian Cardinal George Pell.

“This is a time of major change in the Holy See, not only for the (bank). With the support of the Holy Father and the Council of Cardinals, we are creating simpler, more efficient structures for those serving the mission of the Catholic Church,” Pell said.




  1. The unfortunate, sad, and despicable reality is that you cannot trust or believe anything that comes out of any function of the Vatican. We cannot blame Francis. It will take much longer than Francis will have to correct all of that body’s corruption, incompetence, and malfunction that have been centuries in developing.

    It disturbed me greatly to read in the story about Francis’ meeting with the six victims of pedophile clergy that even he, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was not zealous in reacting to such clerical sins and crimes.

    The woman victim from Ireland is absolutely right. If the church does not properly and quickly react now, it will be its own victim of this terminal disease. There are other churches. There are other ways of being religious.

    For starters, the Catholic Church must eliminate required celibacy as a condition for ordination. Forced celibacy as a requirement to function as a religious leader is contemptible of sex and marriage and a human impossibility. The outrageous distortion is that celibacy is demanded of priests who then preside at the claimed sacred function of marriage that was elevated by the church to the status of a sacrament. That sacramental status adds to the domination of the clergy over the people in the pews, doesn’t it?

    Married clergy must include women. It is unnatural and sinful to prevent women from being ordained because of their gender. It is masochistic and as abnormal and contemptible as the hiding of celibate, pedophile, male clergy.

  2. What good will it do to limit access to Vatican Bank accounts to Catholic Institutions, clerics, Vatican employees, embassies, and accredited diplomats when so many of them have been exposed for the very corruption that has led to the drop in bank profits?

    What about the big loss of the production company owned by a “friend” of Cardinal Bertone, high in Vatican command under Benedict? Bertone was a cleric. Bertone obviously used his influence. Bertone was corrupt.

    The Vatican is corrupt through and through. That is a sad, but outrageous condition for any organization. It is dealy sinful for a religious organization. It means it is not at all religious. It is a sham front for the very worst corruption.

    The Catholic Church has one of the oldest and most corrupt histories of any organization. It is past the time to clean things up. It is time for a thorough reorganization. It is time, long past the time, to take lessons from the Reformation churches.

    Or, as the Irish lady said, the pedophile victim who met with Francis, the Catholic Church is dead! From that death, there will be no resurrection!

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