Institute for the Works of Religion

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Institute for the Works of Religion
Istituto per le Opere di Religione
Type Private
Industry Financial services
Founded 27 June 1942 (absorption of the Administration of the Works of Religion)
Headquarters Vatican City
Key people Ernst von Freyberg (President)
Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz (Vice-president)

The Institute for the Works of Religion (Italian: Istituto per le Opere di ReligioneIOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank, is a privately held institute[1] situated exclusively on the sovereign territory of the Vatican State and run by a Board of Superintendence which reports to a Cardinals' Commission and the Pope.The Bank Identifier Code of the Institute for the Works of Religion is IOPRVAVX. Its president is Ernst Freiherr von Freyberg-Eisenberg who initiated a profound and comprehensive process of reform since his nomination in February 2014 in order "to foster the most rigorous professional and compliance standards".[2] The IOR is regulated by the Vatican's financial supervisory body AIF("Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria").[3]

The institute was founded by papal decree of Pope Pius XII in June 1942. Its assets are not the property of the Holy See, therefore is outside the jurisdiction of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.[4][note 1]

In June 2012, the IOR gave a first presentation of its operations.[5] In July 2013, the Institute launched its own website where it also published its first-ever annual report which is available for download since then.[6] and on 1 October 2013 published its first annual report.[7][8][9]

On 24 June 2013, Pope Francis created a special investigative Pontifical Commission (CRIOR) to study IOR reform.[10] On 07 April 2014, Pope Francis approved respective recommendations on the IOR's future which were jointly developed by the CRIOR and COSEA commissions and the IOR's management. "The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide", as the Vatican release stated.[11]

Origin and Mission[edit]

The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) was founded on 27 June 1942 by Pope Pius XII. It absorbed the Amministrazione per le Opere di Religione (Administration of the Works of Religion), which had originated in the Commission for Works of Charity (Commissione ad pias causas) established by Pope Leo XIII on 11 February 1887.[12][13]

The purpose of the IOR is "to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons and intended for works of religion or charity".[12][13] The Institute does not use deposits to lend money and does not issue securities for resale or other financial products.[14] The IOR's surplus is at disposal of the Holy See, to which the Institute in 2012 made a contribution of 50 million euros.[15] In 2014, the Vatican officially confirmed the IOR's mission as provider of "specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide." Furthermore, it was affirmed by the Vatican that the "valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry". The IOR is not a department of the Roman Curia, the central administrative structure of the Roman Catholic Church.[16] Nor is it a central bank.[note 2] With the creation of the "Secretariat for the Economy" on 24 February 2014, the APSA's role as the central bank of the Vatican was consolidated.[17]


According to its statutes, in effect since 1990,[12] the IOR is composed of five elements:

  • A Prelate, appointed by the Commission with approval by the Pope, who acts as secretary of the Commission and attends meetings of the Board of Superintendence
    • Msgr. Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca (appointed ad interim)
  • A Board of Superintendence, defining the strategy and ensuring oversight of operations. The mandate of the current members of the Board of Superintendence expires in December 2015.[19]
    • Ernst von Freyberg, President
    • Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz, Vice-President
    • Carl A. Anderson, non-executive member
    • Antonio Maria Marocco, non-executive member
    • Manuel Soto Serrano, non executive member
  • A Directorate, in charge of operational activities and accountable to the Board of Superintendence
    • Rolando Marranci, General Director
  • A Board of Auditors, charged with the internal audit of the IOR books and reporting to the Board of Superintendence
    • Massimo Spina, President
    • Rodolfo Molinuevo Orue
    • Pierluigi Bernasconi

On 24 June 2013, Pope Francis created a Pontifical Commission responsible for reviewing the IOR's status and activities.[20] Its task is to "gather accurate information on the legal status and various activities of the Institute to permit, when necessary, a better harmonization of the said Institute with the universal mission of the Apostolic See". Its five members are:


Historic allegations[edit]

When the Holy See, whose tax-exempt status on income from Italian investments was revoked in 1968, decided to diversify its holdings, it employed as financial advisor Michele Sindona. The 1974 failure of Sindona's Franklin National Bank and the subsequent collapse of his financial empire, into which he had chanelled part of the Holy See's investments, entailed losses for the Vatican estimated by one source at 35 billion Italian lire (20 million pounds sterling).[21][22][23][24]

In 1982, a major political and financial scandal connected with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano involved the head of IOR from 1971 to 1989, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who allegedly had given "letters of patronage" on behalf of the IOR in support of the failed bank.[25] In 1987, an Italian court issued a warrant against Marcinkus, whom they accused of being an accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy. Marcinkus evaded arrest by staying inside Vatican City until the warrant was dismissed in 1991, whereupon he returned to his home country, the United States.[26] Chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi was convicted of violating Italian currency laws and fled on a false passport to London where he was found dead under Blackfriars Bridge in London some days after he went missing from Milan.[27] The Istituto per le Opere di Religione, then a 10% shareholder of Banco Ambrosiano,[28] denied legal responsibility for the Banco Ambrosiano's downfall but acknowledged "moral involvement", and paid US$224 million to creditors.[29]

Several books published during the 1980s and 1990s were highly critical of the Institute for the Works of Religion's historical relations with anti-communist governments.[30][31][32] Tony Abse, writing in The Weekly Worker, an organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, has said that the CIA used the Institute for the Works of Religion to funnel funds to the Solidarity Polish trade union "as part of the final offensive against the Soviet Union".[33] The organization American Atheists says covert United States funds were channelled in the same way both to Solidarity and to Contra guerrillas.[34]

Alperin v. Vatican Bank is a class action suit by Holocaust survivors against the Institute for the Works of Religion and Franciscan Order ("Order of Friars Minor") filed in San Francisco, California on 15 November 1999. The case was dismissed as a political question by the District Court for the Northern District of California in 2003, but reinstated in part by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005. That ruling has attracted attention as a precedent at the intersection of the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The complaint against the Vatican Bank was dismissed in 2007 on the basis of sovereign immunity, but the case against the Franciscan Order continues as of 2009. According to one analysis, "the case is extremely complicated and potentially massive, considering the large class spread across many countries".[35]

Situation 2010–2014[edit]

In September 2010, Italian magistrates seized €23 million from the IOR, on the grounds that the anti-money laundering laws in force had been violated. The money was originally to be transferred from the Italian Credito Artigiano to JP Morgan Chase and another Italian bank, Banca del Fucino.[36][37]Both the origin and destination of the funds were accounts under the control of the IOR.[38] It was furthermore declared that Gotti Tedeschi and another IOR manager were under investigation for money laundering charges.[39] On 31 May 2011, Rome's attorney general released the 23 million Euros in assets which had been seized in September, apparently in acknowledgment of the steps taken in the following months to conform the Institute to international standards.

On 24 May 2012, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted as Head of the Vatican Bank because of his alleged "failure to fulfill the primary functions of his office".[40] In July 2013, the money laundering case against Gotti Tedeschi was dropped.[41]In March 2014, he was again acquitted by the Roman court that followed the the public prosecutor's position and relieved Gotti Tedeschi from any responsibility in that operation.[42][43]

On 30 December 2010, Pope Benedict XVI established the Vatican's independent Financial Intelligence Authority (Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria, AIF) to oversee the monetary and commercial activities of all Vatican-related institutions, including the IOR. The Vatican's so-called "financial watchdog" monitors all Vatican financial operations and ensures they meet international norms against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.[44]

On 15 June 2013, with the approval of Pope Francis, the Cardinals' Commission appointed Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca as the Institute's Prelate ad interim.[45] The function of the Prelate is to act as secretary of the Cardinals' Commission and to attend meetings of the five-member Board of Superintendence.[46] Following the nomination, the Italian media published reports that Ricca in the past allegedly was involved in consensual homosexual acts.[47] There was also speculation that opponents of reform might have withheld information about possible scandals in Ricca's past or that they might have made up unfounded rumours about Ricca's past.[48][49] It was reported that Ricca had offered his resignation because of the controversy,[50][51][52] but the head of the Holy See's Press Office declared the accusations as "not credible"[48] and Pope Francis himself informed journalists that an inquiry "found nothing".[53]

In July 2013 the Holy Sees's Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), charged with monitoring the monetary and commercial activities of Vatican agencies, was admitted as a full member of Egmont Group, an international network of Financial Intelligence Units.[54][55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Annuario Pontificio lists it under neither "Holy See" nor "Vatican City State", placing it among charitable foundations. Annuario Pontificio 2012, pp. 1796-1803. John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel from
  2. ^ This central banking function of the Vatican is regulated by the Monetary Agreement between the European Union and the Vatican City State, Monetary Agreement between the European Union and the Vatican City State authorizing the use of the euro as the official currency of Vatican City. Implementation of that Agreement and oversight of the Vatican law against money laundering and financing of terrorism is in the hands of the Financial Information Authority established by Pope Benedict XVI on 30 December 2010. Motu proprio for the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the area of financial dealings, Pope requires full transparency of transactions in the Vatican


Specific citations
  1. ^ (Italian) Cfr. art. 2 of the Chirograph signed by John Paul II
  2. ^ Letter by the President Ernst von Freyberg
  3. ^ Spiegel Online international: Vatican Financial Oversight Director: 'Church Strengthens Position By Combating Money Laundering', 18 March 2013
  4. ^ Pollard, 2005, p. 2
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ IOR launches website, Vatican Radio, 31 July 2013
  7. ^ IOR: IOR Annual Report 2012
  8. ^ Vatican bank publishes first ever annual report, BBC News, 1 October 2013
  9. ^ Nicole Winfield: Secretive Vatican bank takes step to transparency, AP, 1 October 2013
  10. ^
  11. ^ Communique: Holy Father approves recommendations on the future of the Ior, 07.04.2014
  12. ^ a b c Chirografo di Giovanni Paolo II con il quale viene data nuova configurazione all'«Istituto per le Opere di Religione»
  13. ^ a b Annuario Pontificio 2012, p. 1908
  14. ^ Vatican bank launches website in effort to increase transparency, Catholic Herald, 1 August 2013
  15. ^ Vatican Bank Discloses Annual Earnings Report for First Time, Bloomberg, 1 October 2013
  16. ^ Roman Curia
  18. ^ Tornielli, Andrea (January 15, 2014). "Francis shakes up Commission of Cardinals for the IOR". Vatican Insider. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  19. ^ Governance
  21. ^ Frederic Spotts, Theodor Wieser, Italy: A Difficult Democracy (Cambridge University Press 1986 ISBN 978-0-52131511-1), p. 252
  22. ^ Nicolas Pileggi, "The Tycoon Vanishes" in New York Magazine, 24 September 1979, p. 44
  23. ^ Mark Lombardi, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Judith Richards, Global Networks (published by Independent Curators in 2003 for a travelling exhibition of the work of artist Mark Lombardi, ISBN 0-916365-67-0), pp. 61-65]
  24. ^ The Banker, vol. 125, issues 587-592, p. 228
  25. ^ Dennis Patrick McCarthy, International Economic Integration in Historical Perspective (Routledge 2012 ISBN 978-1-13598750-3)
  26. ^ Bernard A. Cook (editor), Europe since 1945 (Routledge 2001 ISBN 978-0-20380174-1), p. 1082
  27. ^ The Vatican Bank is rocked by scandal again
  28. ^ Benton E. Gup, Bank Failures in the Major Trading Countries of the World (Greenwood 1998 ISBN 978-1-56720208-3), p. 31
  29. ^ John L. Allen, The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-19997679-9)
  30. ^ Aarons & Loftus, Unholy Trinity, p. ??
  31. ^ Paris, Edmond. Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941–1945. The American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1990. 
  32. ^ Manhattan, Avro (1986). The Vatican's Holocaust. Ozark Books. 
  33. ^ "Vatican: Rotten to the Core". American Atheists. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  34. ^ "Gelli arrest is another chapter in sordid Vatican bank scandal". American Atheists. 16 September 1998. [dead link]
  35. ^ Reuben Hart. 2006. "Property, War Objectives, and Slave Labor Claims: The Ninth Circuit's Political Question Analysis in Alperin v. Vatican Bank". 36 Golden Gate U.L. Rev. 19.
  36. ^ AGI News On (21 September 2010). "IOR: GOTTI TEDESCHI UNDER INVESTIGATION, 23 MLN EURO SEIZED". Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  37. ^ "Vatican Bank 'investigated over money-laundering'". BBC News Online. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  38. ^ Donadio, Rachel (21 September 2010). "Money-Laundering Inquiry Touches Vatican Bank". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  39. ^ ANSA (Italian News Agency), 2 July 2013: "Ior: Gotti Tedeschi verso archiviazione"
  40. ^ The Guardian: Vatican bank's former president accused of negligence, 12 June 2012
  41. ^ Italian prosecutors drop inquiry into former Vatican bank chief, Reuters, 6 July 2013
  42. ^ Vatican Insider: Gotti Tedeschi's counter attack, 28 March 2013
  43. ^ Daily Mail: Vatican bank's ousted president comes out swinging, 28 March 2014
  44. ^ The Vatican Creates a Financial Watchdog, The New York Times, 30 December 2013
  45. ^ Pope Francis appoints prelate to oversee Vatican bank , BBC News, 15 June 2013
  46. ^ Interim bank appointment means Pope wants cardinals' advice, Catholic News Agency, 17 June 2013
  47. ^ The Prelate of the Gay Lobby, L'Espresso, 18 July 2013
  48. ^ a b Edward Pentin, "Vaticanista Publishes Lurid Tale Surrounding Vatican Bank Appointee" in National Catholic Register, 24 July 2013
  49. ^ Pope Francis's judgment in question after priest named in gay sex scandalGay scandal at the heart of the Vatican: Pope Francis faces his first crisis Prelate Battista Ricca's 'gay romance' rocks Vatican
  50. ^ Catholic World News (22 July 2013): "Prelate of Vatican bank reportedly offers resignation"
  51. ^ Romans always love a Vatican scandal. But what if this time they're right?
  52. ^ Style and substance
  53. ^ "Post-WYD Surprise: Pope Francis Gives Wide-Ranging In-Flight Press Conference" (National Catholic Register, 29 July 2013)
  54. ^ "Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority Admitted to Global Network of Financial Intelligence Units". Zenit News Agency. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  55. ^ "Despite setbacks, Vatican Bank undergoing important evolution". Catholic News Agency. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
General references
  • John F. Pollard: Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850–1950 ISBN 0-521-81204-6
  • Mark Aarons and John Loftus: Unholy Trinity: How the Vatican's Nazi Networks Betrayed Western Intelligence to the Soviets. New York: St.Martin's Press, 1992. 372 pages. ISBN 0-312-07111-6
  • Malachi Martin: Rich Church, Poor Church (Putnam, New York, 1984) ISBN 0-399-12906-5
  • Malachi Martin: Vatican (Jove (1 August 1988)) ISBN 978-0-515-09654-5
  • Charles Raw: The Moneychangers: How the Vatican Bank Enabled Roberto Calvi to Steal 250 Million Dollars for the Heads of the P2 Masonic Lodge (Harvill Press, 1992) ISBN 0-00-217338-7
  • Giancarlo Galli: Finanza bianca. La Chiesa, i soldi, il potere (Mondadori, 2004) ISBN 88-04-51262-8
  • David A. Yallop: In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I
  • Mark Lombardi: Global Networks. Mark Lombardi, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Judith Richards; Independent Curators, 2003 (published for the travelling exhibition of his work, "Mark Lombardi Global Networks"). ISBN 0-916365-67-0
  • Jonathan Levy, "The Vatican Bank", in Russ Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know is Wrong (Disinformation Press, 2002) ISBN 1-56731-701-4
  • Michael Phayer: Pius XII: The Holocaust and the Cold War, 2008, ISBN 978-0-25334-930-9.

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 41°54′14″N 12°27′24″E / 41.90378°N 12.45669°E / 41.90378; 12.45669