Vatican bank website launched to boost transparency, media relations

(Photo:President of the Vatican bank Ernst von Freyberg REUTERS / Tony Gentile)President of the Vatican bank Ernst von Freyberg poses in his office at the Vatican June 10, 2013. Picture take June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The Vatican bank has launched its own website as part of its campaign for more transparency for the institute that was mired in scandal.

"It is an important part of transparency to launch a website," said Ernst von Freyberg, president of the Vatican bank that is formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion.

The website came on stream on July 31 at

Von Freyberg says on the website that its reform measures include, "implementing strict anti-money laundering processes and improving our internal structures.

"We are conducting an extensive evaluation of all our clients' accounts, with the aim of closing down those relationships that do not conform to our strict standards."

The bank's said that since the process of change began the bank has applied zero-tolerance for any breaches of laws, rules and regulations.

"Our mission is to serve the universal Church throughout the entire world, helping the Holy See, religious congregations and Catholic institutions in their works of charity and evangelization," the bank head said.

Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio that the website would enable the bank "to tell our customers, the church, the interested public what we are doing, how our reform efforts are progressing and what the scope of our work is."

The bank will use website to try to facilitate relations with the press, which has provided extensive coverage of the bank's problems.

Later in 2013 the bank will post its annual on the site, the first time it has published its accounts.

The website is published in English and Italian and lists key personnel, including two people dedicated to press inquiries long with direct phone lines, street addresses and emails.

"We consider journalists and the media our key intermediaries with the public, but also with those in the church who are interested in our work," Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio.

"We hope that this website will also create a platform to communicate with journalists and the media."

The bank's director and deputy director both resigned July 1 after a prelate, who was an account holder, was arrested by Italian authorities in June on charges of fraud, corruption and slander.

In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when the Vatican's new financial laws

Pope Benedict XVI introduced wide reforms to enable the Vatican's finance and money-handling laws to comply with European laws and international standards.

Pope Francis has appointed a special commission to review the activities and mission of the Vatican bank.

Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio that the Vatican bank has been working hard in recent weeks to get the institute to be "transparent, efficient and completely compliant" with current regulations and standards.

"We wish to create options for the Holy Father to decide later in this year how he wishes to organize our activities going forward," he said.

Pope Francis told reporters July 28 that some people have suggested it should become a real bank, others that it should be a "charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don't know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission."

"Whatever it ends up being - whether a bank or a charitable fund - transparency and honesty are essential," the Pope said.

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