VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis says he doesn’t want a “Vatican-centric” church concerned about itself but a missionary church that reaches out to the poor, the young, the elderly and even to non-believers. That’s the vision he laid out as he opened a landmark meeting Tuesday on reforming the 2,000-year-old institution.
Francis convened the inaugural meeting of his eight cardinal advisers for three days of brainstorming on revamping the antiquated Vatican bureaucracy and other reforms. The move fulfills a key mandate of the cardinals who elected him: They wanted a pope who would involve local church leaders in helping make decisions about the 1.2-billion strong church.
The closed-door meeting got underway against the backdrop of one of the most tangible signs that change is already afoot: The secretive Vatican bank, under investigation for alleged money-laundering by Italian prosecutors, released its first-ever annual report Tuesday, the latest step toward financial transparency championed by Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI.
Net earnings at the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, rose more than four-fold to 86.6 million euros ($116.95 million) in 2012, the report said. More than 50 million euros of that was given to the pope for his charitable works.
Francis has put the Vatican bank on notice, forming a commission of inquiry to look into its activities amid accusations by Italian prosecutors that its clients may have used its lax controls to launder money. The bank’s two top managers have already resigned and a Vatican monsignor has been arrested after trying to smuggle 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland without declaring it at customs.
Francis has formed another commission of inquiry to look into the Vatican’s overall financial health, but his decision to name the eight cardinals from around the world as a permanent advisory panel represents the most significant sign that he wants to shake things up at the Vatican.