Vatican bank’s TV investment loss showed Cardinal Bertone’s power
Two years ago, the Vatican bank invested 15 million euros in an Italian television company that makes family movies, including films about popes and a series about a bike-riding country priest who helps police solve crimes.
The Vatican’s then Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone ordered the investment in Lux Vide SpA, which he said shares the Holy See’s “lofty goal of evangelisation”.
Bertone, who was the second-in-command to former Pope Benedict, pushed the deal through despite objections from the bank’s director and board members, who thought the expense was too big and not justified for the bank, according to current and former bank executives.
Last month, the Vatican booked a loss for the entire amount spent, as part of a wider review of Vatican finances that has also led to the closure of hundreds of accounts at the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR by its Italian acronym, as the bank is called.
Bertone, who still stands by the decision to invest in the television company, said that when the bank approved the deal it did so with the board’s unanimous consent.
The zeroing of the Lux Vide investment is emblematic of Pope Francis’s effort to loosen ties between the Holy See and Italy’s business and political world, a longstanding network of relations the Argentine pontiff considers improper to the Church’s religious mission.
In his first 16 months in office, Pope Francis has been trying to reform the Curia, as the Vatican’s central administration is called. He has hired international consulting firms to improve financial accounting procedures. He has given broad economic powers to an Australian cardinal seen as distant from the centres of power in Italy.
In the process, one of the biggest changes has been to curtail the powers of the Vatican Secretary of State, in particular over the Holy See’s financial affairs.