VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Emphasizing that financial reform requires a clear separation between those in charge of overseeing expenditures and those who do the spending, Pope Francis clarified that the Secretariat for the Economy would not be involved in the administration of assets.
In a new “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) released July 9, the pope said the secretariat, headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell, would continue to act as a body that controls and monitors budget plans and spending by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.
However, the pope clarified that the administration, not the secretariat, would carry out procurements, payments and the administration of funds and property. Also, responsibility for the Vatican-related pilgrimage and tour agency, “Peregrinatio ad Petri Sedem,” would no longer be under the secretariat, but would return back to the administration, the document said.
Pope Francis established the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy and a general auditor’s office in 2014 and approved their statutes on a trial basis in 2015 as part of a major overhaul of the Vatican’s accounting and budgeting procedures.
The Council for the Economy is charged with devising best practices for more ethical, effective and transparent financial management and administration and with inspecting the budget forecasts and final budgets of all dicasteries, offices and organizations of the Holy See and Vatican City State.
The Secretariat for the Economy is charged with implementing the norms and suggestions made by the council and with the supervision and vigilance over all administrative, bookkeeping and financial activities at the Vatican, making sure spending follows approved budget plans.
However, the new motu proprio, dated July 4, responds to “the need to define further the relationship between the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and the Secretariat for the Economy” and how they carry out and coordinate their work, the document said.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its real estate holdings, and it has also served as the Vatican employment office and procurement agency. The office originally was set up to manage the assets received as a settlement from the Italian government in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts.
The motu proprio said reform requires guaranteeing “the clear and unequivocal distinction between control and vigilance, on the one hand, and administration of goods, on the other,” it said. Therefore, after study and consultation on the matter, the pope specified which functions pertained to the administration and gave an outline that “better delineates the Secretariat for the Economy’s fundamental role of control and vigilance.”
The document repealed just one article from the secretariat’s previous statutes — that of providing “administrative and technical services necessary for the ordinary activity of the dicasteries of the Holy See,” and retained its role in providing assistance to the Vatican’s pension fund and health care assistance fund.