Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the latest round of Vatican financial scandals is actually a success, as the situation came to light thanks to an internal Vatican investigation, which he says demonstrates that new controls are working.
The pontiff also called the possession and deployment of nuclear weapons “immoral”, saying the point should be added to the Catholic catechism, and suggested it might be time to rethink the power of veto exercised by a handful of countries within the United Nations. Advice.
His comments came during an airline press conference on the flight back to Rome from his November 19-26 trip to Thailand and Japan.
Vatican financial scandals
‘There is corruption,’ Francis conceded when asked about a recent scandal surrounding the purchase of a former Harrod’s warehouse in London’s Tony Chelsea neighborhood by the Vatican secretary of state. , using funds from the annual “Peter’s Pence” collection presented as a way to support papal charities.
Initially, about $220 million was spent to acquire a share of the property, and later the Secretary of State tried to shell out another $170 million to buy it outright. According to the Italian magazine Espressothe Vatican was overcharged for the operation by several Italian intermediaries.
Five Vatican employees have been suspended following an October 1 raid by Vatican gendarmes on their offices, including members of the Secretariat of State and the director of the Vatican Financial Authority (AIF). Two weeks later, Domenico Giani, the Vatican’s longtime security chief and Francis’ personal bodyguard, resigned over the leak of the document linked to a magistrate’s investigation into the deal.
During the hour-long press conference, Francis said the five Vatican officials suspected of corruption will soon be questioned by the promoter of justice, if the process has not already begun.
“They did things that don’t look clean,” Francis told reporters on Tuesday. “But the allegation does not come from outside. This reform of economic methodology began with [Pope] Benedict XVI and prosecuted.
It was the Vatican auditor general, he said, who noticed something fishy in the accounts and brought a written allegation to the pope, asking Francis what to do. The pope said he directed him to the promoter of justice in the Vatican.
“I was happy because it means that today the Vatican administration has the resources to shed light on the bad things that are happening inside,” he said. “There have been cases of corruption.
(The current auditor general, Italian layman Alessandro Cassinis Righini, is in an interim position. He took over when his former boss, Italian financial expert Libero Milone, left in 2017, claiming he had been expelled in due to efforts to report suspicious transactions. )
Francis said there was a presumption of innocence for the five people involved, but in any event the money was not properly administered.
Francis defended the use of Peter’s Pence funds, saying that “putting money in a drawer” is not administering it wisely.
It makes sense to invest it, he said, to ensure that the capital does not lose value. However, the money should go to safe and moral projects, he said, and not to an “arms manufacturer”. Investments should also be short-term, so that the money is spent within a year when new donations arrive.
Francis said it was legal to use the fund to buy property and then rent it out and resell it, without naming the London property. However, he said, “Afterwards, what happened, happened. Scandal.
The fact that the corruption took place in the Vatican, he said, is “ugly,” but he again stressed that the system itself found it.
“I thank God, not for the fact that there is corruption in the Vatican, but because the internal system works,” he said.
The name of René Brülhart, a Swiss lawyer and anti-money laundering expert who left the position of AIF President just before the trip to Thailand and Japan, was very important, although he was never mentioned in the press. His exit has been variously described as the normal end of his term, a resignation in protest, or a dismissal.
François said he summoned the “president of the AIF”, who tendered his resignation.
“It was the AIF, it seemed, that didn’t control the crimes of others,” Francis told reporters.
The pontiff insisted that progress had been made on Vatican finances, citing the fact that the so-called Vatican Bank can today operate like any other bank in the world, which does not wasn’t possible a year ago, when many financial institutions didn’t recognize it.
Francis also referred, after being questioned, to the Egmont Group, a global network of financial intelligence units. Although recognized internationally, the group has no regulatory authority. According to the Pope, this is a task for Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, which is due to publish its latest report on the Vatican in early 2020.
The pope also said Brülhart had requested the return of documentation seized by Vatican security forces at the request of the Egmont group, but said that could not be done.
“I asked an Italian judge what justice should do,” Francis said. “Justice, after an accusation of corruption, is sovereign in a country.”
After insisting that he wanted the five corruption suspects to be declared innocent, the pope pointed out that “the lid has been lifted from inside the pot” and praised the courage of the auditor general to write an allegation against five people.
Regarding the Egmont Group, Francis said he did not want to offend them because they “do a lot of good”, but in this case “sovereignty is more important than private interests”.
On nuclear weapons and nuclear energy
Several questions focused on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and the just war principle of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Peace today, Francis said after a question from a French reporter, “is weak, very weak.”
Invited by a Japanese journalist who asked how the pope felt during his visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he recalled that he had condemned the use of nuclear weapons “as immoral”.
“It has to go to catechism,” the pope said. “And not just use them, but have them.”
Possessing such weapons, he said, is dangerous, because accidents happen but also because “one’s madness can destroy humanity”. He quoted Albert Einstein, who said that World War IV will be fought with “sticks and stones”.
Concerning the nuclear power plants, François insisted on the possibility of an accident, of which Japan was aware because of the triple disaster of 2011, that is to say the earthquake, the tsunami and the collapse of the Fukushima nuclear power plant which resulted from the two previous ones.
Nuclear power, he said, “is the limit.” The nuclear weapon “is destruction”, but the use of nuclear energy is “at the limit” because “we still have not reached total security” for its deployment.
Emphasizing that this was a personal opinion, Francis said he would not use nuclear energy until such safety is achieved to prevent the disaster it can wreak on humanity. and also to the environment.
Asked about a rumored papal encyclical on violence, the pontiff said the idea is “in a drawer”, but he doesn’t feel the issue has matured enough to write it down himself. even, in addition to a lack of time.
The pontiff said that while international organizations such as the United Nations have done a lot of good, they have not been able to control arms.
“If there is a problem of security, of weapons, and that all the countries vote yes [to control them]and whoever has the right of veto says no, so it’s over.
“I’ve heard, I’m not able to judge whether it’s good or not, but maybe the United Nations should give up on certain nations in the Security Council having veto power”, a- he declared. “Everything that is done to stop building weapons, to stop war, to go through negotiations,” he said, “must always be done.”
Latin America in flames, and “I love China”
Asked to share his thoughts on the protests in Hong Kong, Francis said it was far from the only place with long-lasting unrest. He mentioned Chile, the yellow vests in France, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries, “like Brazil”, with similar situations.
“I ask for peace in these countries which have problems,” he said, adding that we must call for dialogue.
A reporter asked Francis if he wanted to visit China, and he said he would love to visit Beijing because “I love China.”
Spanish-speaking reporters zoomed in on the pope’s home continent, with one reporter citing upheavals in Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile and Nicaragua, including churches being burned down or attacked.
Francis said he did not feel able to give an analysis, but quoted “someone” suggesting to him that the situation is not much different from the 1970s and 1980s, when Chile, Argentina, l Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil all had military governments and a situation that was “on fire”.
The pope said that the situation in Chile frightens him in particular, because it arises from a “problem of [clerical]abuses that made us suffer a lot, and now [there’s] a problem of a kind that we don’t fully understand but is in flames.
Francis said he had not yet found a good analysis of the situation in Latin America, but said that there were “weak, very weak governments, which have not yet been able to bring back the peace”.