Vatican City portal
Institute for the Works of Religion
Institute for the Works of Religion (Italian: Istituto per le
Opere di Religione – IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank, is a
private bank situated inside
Vatican City and run by a Board of
Superintendence which reports to a Supervisory Commission of Cardinals
and the Pope. The
Bank Identifier Code of the Institute for the Works
of Religion is IOPRVAVX. Since 9 July 2014, its president is
Jean-Baptiste de Franssu. The IOR is regulated by the Vatican's
financial supervisory body AIF (Autorità di Informazione
The institute was founded by papal decree of
Pope Pius XII in June
1942. Its assets are not the property of the Holy See, and therefore
it is outside the jurisdiction of the Prefecture for the Economic
Affairs of the Holy See.[note 1]
In June 2012, the IOR gave a first presentation of its operations. In
July 2013, the Institute launched its own website. On 1 October
2013 it also published its first-ever annual report which has been
available for download since then.
On 24 June 2013,
Pope Francis created a special investigative
Pontifical Commission (CRIOR) to study IOR reform. On 7 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.
On 7 April 2014,
Pope Francis approved a proposal on the Institute's
future, "reaffirming the importance of the IOR’s mission for the
good of the Catholic Church, the
Holy See and the Vatican City
State". On 25 May 2015, the IOR published its Annual Report for
1 Origin and mission
3.1 Historical allegations
3.2 Judicial events and reorganisation (2010–2018)
4 Process of reform
4.1 Institutional milestones
4.2 Reform steps 2010/2011
4.3 Reform steps 2012
4.4 Reform steps 2013
4.5 Reform steps 2014
5 See also
8 External links
Origin and mission
Pope Leo XIII
The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) was founded on 27 June
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. The
IOR is not a department of the Roman Curia, the central administrative
structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Nor is it a central
bank.[note 2] With the creation of the
Secretariat for the Economy on
24 February 2014, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic
See's role as the central bank of the Vatican was consolidated.
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". The Institute does not use
deposits to lend money and does not issue securities for resale or
other financial products. The IOR's surplus is at the disposal of
the Holy See, to which the Institute in 2012 made a contribution of
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
According to its statutes, in effect since 1990, the IOR is
composed of five elements:
A Supervisory Commission of Cardinals with 5 members, appointed for
renewable five-year terms, who elect their president. They are:
Santos Abril y Castelló, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb
Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State
Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
President of the
Pontifical Council for
A Prelate, appointed by the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals with
approval by the Pope, who acts as secretary of the Commission and
attends meetings of the Board of Superintendence
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.
Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President
Mary Ann Glendon
Sir Michael Hintze
A Directorate, in charge of operational activities and accountable to
the Board of Superintendence
A Board of Auditors, charged with the internal audit of the IOR books
and reporting to the Board of Superintendence
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 adviser Michele Sindona. Once among the
country's most powerful businessmen, subsequent investigations into
his business affairs brought to light questionable associations with
the Mafia as well as the secret P2, a bogus "Masonic" lodge that the
Italian Parliament branded as a subversive organization. The 1974
failure of Sindona's Franklin National Bank and the subsequent
collapse of his financial empire, into which he had channeled part of
the Holy See's investments, entailed losses for the Vatican estimated
by one source at 35 billion Italian lire (£20
In 1982, a political and financial scandal connected with the collapse
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.
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. Chairman of the
Banco Ambrosiano and member of the
illegal Masonic lodge P2,
Roberto Calvi was convicted of violating
Italian currency laws and fled on a false passport to London where he
was found murdered under Blackfriars Bridge in London some days after
he went missing from Milan. The Istituto per le Opere di
Religione, then a 10% shareholder of Banco Ambrosiano, denied
legal responsibility for the Banco Ambrosiano's downfall but
acknowledged "moral involvement", and paid US$224 million to
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. 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". The organization
American Atheists says covert United States funds were channelled in
the same way both to Solidarity and to Contra guerrillas.
Alperin v. Vatican Bank
Alperin v. Vatican Bank was a class action suit by Holocaust survivors
Institute for the Works of Religion
Institute for the Works of Religion 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
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The complaint against the
Vatican Bank was dismissed in 2007 on the basis of sovereign immunity.
Judicial events and reorganisation (2010–2018)
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
JPMorgan Chase and another Italian bank,
Banca del Fucino (it). Both the origin and destination of
the funds were accounts under the control of the IOR. It was
furthermore declared that
Gotti Tedeschi and another IOR manager were
under investigation for money laundering charges. On 31 May 2011,
Rome's attorney general released the €23 million in assets which had
been seized in September, apparently in acknowledgment of the steps
taken in the following months to conform the Institute to
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". In July 2013, the money laundering case
Gotti Tedeschi was dropped. In March 2014, he was again
acquitted by the Roman court that followed the public prosecutor's
position and relieved
Gotti Tedeschi from any responsibility in that
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. Following the nomination, the
Italian media published reports that Ricca in the past allegedly was
involved in consensual homosexual acts. 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. It was reported that
Ricca had offered his resignation because of the
controversy, but the head of the Holy See's Press Office
declared the accusations as "not credible" and
himself informed journalists that an inquiry "found nothing".
On 28 June 2013, three persons were arrested by the Italian police on
suspicion of corruption and fraud. Allegedly, they had planned to
smuggle €20 million in cash from Switzerland into Italy. One of the
arrested was Monsignore Nunzio Scarano, previously senior accountant
at APSA, the Vatican's Administration of the Patrimony of the
Apostolic See. Subsequently, he was indicted with corruption and
slander and set under house arrest. On 21 January 2014, he was
further charged with money laundering through IOR accounts in yet
another investigation. According to a police statement, millions
of euros in "false donations" from offshore companies had moved
through Scarano's accounts. Already in July 2013, the IOR had frozen
the money in Scarano's accounts. As news agency Reuters reported,
Elena Guarino, the Salerno magistrate who led the investigation, told
reporters "the Vatican was fully cooperative and gave her much
information on Scarano's bank movements."
In 2018, Vatican prosecutors indicted former Vatican Bank President
Angelo Caloia, and his attorney, Gabriele Liuzzo, for embezzling $62
million, using a real estate scam, between 2001 and 2006.
Process of reform
In June 1990, the IOR was re-structured by a
Paul II, which established the IOR's present Statutes. According
to Article 4 of the Chirograph, the Institute consists of five bodies:
A Supervisory Commission of Cardinals, a Board of Superintendence, a
Prelate, a Directorate and Board of Auditors. (see section 2 -
Reform steps 2010/2011
On 1 January 2010, a renegotiated monetary agreement between the EU
Vatican City State entered into force, supplementing the
monetary agreement between the
Vatican City State and Italy from the
year 2000. Having signed the agreement, the Vatican transposed EU
legislation on euro counterfeiting and money laundering by the end of
2010 and accepted the European Court of Justice as the only
jurisdiction responsible for settling disputes under the
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 conform with international norms
against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
In June 2011, the Roman prosecutors ordered the release of the seized
€23 million that should have been transferred via an IOR account at
Credito Artigiano. According to the prosecutors, this request of
release was due to the newly instituted mechanisms that should help
the Institute to conform to international anti-money laundering and
antiterrorist financing standards, such as the AIF's
Reform steps 2012
In July 2012, Moneyval, the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts
on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing
of Terrorism, published and issued a report on the
Vatican City State,
by request of the Vatican itself. This was the first time that the
Holy See had submitted its institutions and laws to the judgment of an
international external auditor. The Italian news magazine l'Espresso
called this "an historic watershed". The Vatican received grades
of "compliant" or "largely compliant" on 22 out of 45 guidelines and
adhered to international standards in 9 out of the 16 core points.
Moneyval stated that the Vatican "has come a long way in a very short
period of time" and stated that the city state met the international
requirements in 9 out of 16 core topics. At the same time, Moneyval
requested further reforms to be enacted The Vatican expressed
a goal to get into the so-called OECD white list which includes
countries that comply with international anti-money laundering
standards and regulations against tax offences.
In November 2012, a Swiss anti-money laundering expert, René
Brülhart, was appointed director of the AIF. Previously, he had
worked for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Liechtenstein as
well as for the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
Reform steps 2013
On 15 February 2013, Ernst von Freyberg was appointed the IOR's
President. Since the beginning of his tenure at the IOR, von Freyberg
has focused on comprehensively reforming the Institute, stating he
would focus on transparency  and a "zero tolerance" approach
to any suspicious transactions.
In May 2013, the international consulting and auditing firm Promontory
was assigned a forensic review and screening of the Institute's client
relationships. In this context, all accounts of the IOR's 19,000
customers were being checked if they meet the respective criteria.
On 24 June 2013,
Pope Francis created a Pontifical Commission, often
referred to as the CRIOR commission, to review the IOR's status and
activities. Its task was 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 were
Raffaele Farina (President) Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, Juan Ignacio
Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru,
Peter Bryan Wells
Peter Bryan Wells (secretary) and Mary
Ann Glendon. The commission terminated its work in May 2014.
In July 2013, the Holy See's Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF),
charged with monitoring the monetary and commercial activities of
Vatican agencies, was admitted as a full member of the Egmont Group,
an international network of financial intelligence units.
On 1 October 2013, the IOR published its first ever annual report.
The annual report is available for download on the Institute's
homepage which was launched in July 2013. The report's figures
were audited by the global accounting firm KPMG. According to the
report, the Institute in 2012 had a net profit of €86.6 million, of
which it has transferred €54.7 million to the budget of the Holy See
to help the pope carry out the church’s global mission. Both
measures - the annual report's publication and the launch of the
website - were reviewed as remarkable signs of enhanced transparency
and compliance: The Guardian called the website launch a "giant
leap" and Reuters named it a "transparency drive". On 12 June
2017 IOR published its fifth annual report, showing net gains of €36
million for the year 2016.
Also in October 2013, newspapers reported that the IOR had requested
around 1,300 customers to close their IOR accounts. Allegedly, this
request was directed at lay account holders, who do not fit into any
of the five categories of clients the IOR is legally allowed to
have. The closures are said to be a result of the review process
conducted by Promontory.
On 12 December 2013,
Moneyval published its Progress Report that
assessed the Holy See's progress made on measures to combat money
laundering. It was stated that the IOR has made significant
progress but at the same time needed more institutionalized internal
controls, especially with regard to the AIF's watchdog function.
Overall, the report was rated as the approval of the economic and
financial reforms enacted since
Pope Francis’ taking office.
Reform steps 2014
On 22 January 2014, the IOR published a report on the progress of the
compliance and transparency program. IOR
President Ernst von
Freyberg commented on the release, stating that "it is very possible
to reform an institution like the IOR" and that the Institute has
"used the past year to create the system and to analyse our customers
for possible irregularities". Von Freyberg also stated much work needs
to be done as regards transparency and compliance.
On 7 April 2014,
Pope Francis ruled the IOR will stay operative and
approved recommendations on the Institute's future, which were drawn
up jointly by the papal commissions CRIOR and COSEA, by the IOR's
management and by Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the
Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. The decision was interpreted as
a "backing" of the process of reform that had been intensified under
Pope Francis and von Freyberg. The IOR itself stated that the
Pope's decision "represents a powerful endorsement of our very mission
and the hard work accomplished over the past 12 months." Von
Freyberg stepped down in July as head of the IOR and
named Jean-Baptiste de Franssu to replace him.
In September 2014, the Cardinals’ Commission of the IOR appointed
Mauricio Larraín (Chile) and Carlo Salvatori (Italy) as members to
the IOR Board of Superintendence. Other members include Jean-Baptiste
de Franssu (France),
President of the Board, Clemens Boersig
Mary Ann Glendon
Mary Ann Glendon (USA) and
Michael Hintze (UK). In addition
to these six lay members of the Board, Monsignor Alfred Xuereb,
Secretary-General of the Secretariat for the Economy, serves as its
non-voting Secretary. From January 2017 additional members added
to the board were: Scott C. Malpass (USA), es:Javier Marín Romano
(Spain), and Georg Freiherr von Boeselager (Germany).
Vatican City portal
Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
Economy of the Vatican City
Index of Vatican City-related articles
Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
1832 Rothschild loan to the Holy See
Annuario Pontificio lists it under neither "Holy See" nor
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Annuario Pontificio 2012, pp. 1796-1803. John Paul II Foundation for
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City State authorizing the use of the euro as the official currency of
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Vatican law against money laundering and financing of terrorism is in
the hands of the
Financial Information Authority
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
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Giancarlo Galli: Finanza bianca. La Chiesa, i soldi, il potere
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Nazi gold to the Vatican—report on declassified memo in Time
Magazine, 22 July 1997
"Vatican Bank describes its own history and operations in Court
Document" from Wikileaks
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Vatican City portal
Coordinates: 41°54′14″N 12°27′24″E / 41.90378°N
12.45669°E / 41.90378; 12.45669