Pope St. Paul VI began the tradition of globetrotting popes although in a conservative way. Pope St. John Paul II put that traveling on steroids. Pope Benedict felt he needed to continue that tradition but on a modified level. Pope Francis has also and more than Pope Benedict but less than Pope St. John Paul II. Pope Francis has seen a fluctuation in the number of people at these mega events, some shockingly empty.
But is all this travel necessary? Do we need popes to be jet setting celebrities? And the cost of these travels to local Churches, countries and the Vatican is off the charts.
But worse, while the cat is away, the mice play. And that is an understatement.
Thus the pandemic has had a wonderful effect of keeping the pope home where His Holiness should be and be just as effective and His Holiness can deal with what needs to be dealt with and evidently Pope Francis has been doing precisely that.
SO LET’S HAVE A CANON LAW TO CURB PAPAL TRAVEL FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH!
Read the Crux article by pressing the title:
A grounded pope spent 2020 trying to clean house on Vatican finances
Francis has taken several steps to clean house since Italy’s spring lockdown began:
- In March, the Vatican announced the creation of a new Human Resources section called the “General Directorate for Personnel” within the general affairs section of the Secretariat of State, responsible for internal ecclesiastical governance, describing the new office as “a step of great importance in the path of reform initiated by Pope Francis.” Just a day later the Vatican walked that announcement back, saying the new section was merely a “proposal” from officials inside the Council for the Economy and by members of the pope’s Council of Cardinals, indicating that while a genuine need has been identified, internal struggles could still prevent progress.
- In April, Pope Francis appointed Italian banker and economist Giuseppe Schlitzer as the new director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, its financial vigilance unit, after the abrupt departure last November of Swiss anti-money laundering expert René Brülhart.
- On May 1, which marks the Italian celebration of Labor Day, the pope fired five Vatican employees believed to have been involved in the controversial purchase of the London property by the Secretariat of State, which unfolded in two stages between 2013 and 2018.
- Still in early May, the pope convened a meeting of all department heads to discuss the Vatican’s financial situation and possible reforms, featuring a detailed report by Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, named by Francis last November as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
- In mid-May, Pope Francis shut down nine holding companies in based in the Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, all of which were created to manage portions of the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its land and real estate holdings.
- Around the same time, the pope transferred the Vatican’s “Center for the Elaboration of Data,” which is essentially its financial monitoring service, from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretariat for the Economy, in bid to create a stronger distinction between administration and oversight.
- On June 1, Pope Francis issued a new law on procurement which applies to both the Roman Curia, meaning the Vatican’s governing bureaucracy, and the Vatican City State. Among other things, the law bars conflicts of interest, mandates competitive bidding procedures, requires evidence that that contract expenditures are financially sustainable, and centralizes control over contracting.
- Shortly after issuing the new law, the pope named Italian layman Fabio Gasperini, a former banking services expert for Ernst and Young, as the new number two official at APSA, effectively the Vatican’s central bank.
- On Aug. 18, the Vatican issued an Ordinance from the President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, requiring volunteer organizations and juridical persons of the Vatican City State to report suspicious activities to the Vatican’s financial watchdog entity, the Financial Information Authority (AIF). Later, in early December, Francis issued new statutes transforming AIF into the Financial Supervision and Information Authority (ASIF), confirming its oversight role for the so-called Vatican bank and expanding its responsibilities.
- On Sept. 24, Pope Francis ousted his former chief of staff, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who resigned not only as the head of the Vatican’s office for saints but also from “the rights connected to being a cardinal” at the pope’s request over allegations of embezzlement. Becciu had previously served as the sostituto, or “substitute,” in the Secretariat of State from 2011-2018, a position traditionally likened to the Chief of Staff for a US president. In addition to the allegations of embezzlement, Becciu had also been linked to the London property deal, which was brokered in 2014 during his time as sostituto, leading many to think he was ultimately responsible. Becciu’s removal was interpreted by many as retribution for financial wrongdoings, and a sign that such maneuvers will not be tolerated.
- On the Oct. 4, feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis published his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, dedicated to the topic of human fraternity and in which he advocates for a complete restructuring of politics and civil discourse in order to create systems prioritizing the community and the poor, rather than individual or market interests.
- On Oct. 5, just days after Becciu’s resignation, the Vatican announced the creation of a new “Commission for Reserved Matters” determining which economic activities remain confidential, naming allies such as Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, as president, and Archbishop Filippo Iannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, as secretary. The commission itself, which covers contracts for the purchase of goods, property and services for both the Roman Curia and Vatican City State offices, was part of new transparency laws enacted by the pope in June.
- On Oct. 8, three days after the commission was created, Pope Francis met at the Vatican with representatives of Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, which at the time was conducting its annual review of the Vatican following a year of money-related scandals, including Brülhart’s ouster in November 2019. In his speech, the pope condemned a neoliberal economy and the idolatry of money and outlined steps the Vatican has taken to clean up its own finances. The results of this year’s Moneyval report are expected to be published in early April when the Moneyval plenary assembly takes place in Brussels.
- On Dec. 8 the Vatican announced the creation of the “Council for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican,” a partnership between the Holy See and some of the world’s largest investment and business leaders, including CEOs from Bank of America, British Petroleum, Estée Lauder, Mastercard and Visa, Johnson and Johnson, Allianz, Dupont, TIAA, Merck and Co., Ernst and Young, and Saudi Aramco. The aim is to harness resources from the private sector to support objectives such as ending poverty, protecting the environment and promoting equal opportunity. The group has placed itself under the moral guidance of Pope Francis and Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Pope Francis met the group during a Vatican audience in November 2019.
- On Dec. 15, the pope’s Council for the Economy convened for an online meeting to discuss not only the 2020 deficit, which is expected to be more than $60 million due to both shortfalls related to the coronavirus and the looming crisis in unfunded pension obligations.
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