Days after the arrest of a high-ranking official at the Vatican Bank, the director of the Catholic institution, along with his deputy, resigned on Monday. It's all part of the infinite saga of corruption within the institution officially known as the Institute of Religious Works, the secretive financial wing of the Vatican that can't seem to stop getting implicated in money laundering plots. And the bank's new president, Ernst von Freyberg, is taking advantage of the leadership sweep to talk about reforming the institution.
Von Freyberg became the IRW's president in February, as one of the last acts of the now emeritus Pope Benedict XVII before he left his post. He's a German lawyer and a member of the Knights of Malta, and Benedict tapped him for the job with the hope that he'd fix the institution's reputation. And while originally von Freyberg seemed to think that fix was mainly a PR problem, it seems that the bank's president knows that those fixes will have to at least look drastic. While the Vatican statement didn't give much information on why the pair resigned, von Freyberg offered the looking forward take: "It is clear today that we need new leadership," he said of the two resignations today. Or, at least a removal of leadership with baggage: the now former bank director Paolo Cipriani had been directly tied to the money laundering scandal that took down von Freyberg's predecessor as president, though neither were charged in the end.
As Capital New York reported earlier this year, the bank is nearly synonymous with corruption in Italy. One Italian judicial official described it to the paper as "an offshore bank in the heart of Rome." The bank doesn't allow accounts for Vatican outsiders, and it doesn't lend money. Instead, it holds about 7 billion Euros in assets for about 19,000 accounts.
Pope Francis, who has moved pretty quickly on bank reform issues (indicating just how tenuous the situation is with the institution after the Vatileaks scandal aired the Holy See's dirty laundry for everyone's eyes), appointed a commission last week to oversee and glean information on the workings of the bank.