VATICAN CITY – The Vatican's economy czar says the Holy See's finances are in better shape than he thought, revealing that hundreds of millions of euros were kept off the balance sheet and that reforms are forging ahead to make the Vatican "boringly successful."
In a frank essay published Thursday in Britain's The Catholic Herald, Cardinal George Pell outlined his vision for a Vatican that follows international accounting standards, is transparent and audited externally, and uses its proceeds to help the poor.
Pope Francis was elected in 2013 on a mandate to get the Vatican's finances in order after years of scandal at its bank and waste in its administration. Pell was among the most vocal in calling for reform, and was named by Francis to head the new Secretariat for the Economy to oversee the process.
In the essay, Pell disparaged the Vatican's past practices of financial secrecy, defending fiefdoms and dragging its feet in implementing international anti-moneylaundering norms.
He resurrected two of the most recent scandals -- the "sacking" of the Vatican bank president and the leaks of documents by the papal butler -- which he said had "severely" damaged the Holy See's reputation.
In saying they were a "heavy cross" for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to bear, Pell suggested that Benedict's resignation was indeed linked to the scandals. The reforms, however, are going ahead to make the Vatican "boringly successful," Pell said.
He said his team had discovered that the financial situation was "much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet."
Pell didn't say that the euros were unknown to Vatican authorities, just that they didn't feature into the balance sheet.