FaithWorld

Pope Francis shows mega-banks how to do it

(Jean-Baptise de Franssu (L), new president of Vatican Bank IOR, outgoing President Ernst Von Freyberg (R) and Cardinal George Pell leave at the end of a news conference at the Vatican July 9, 2014. The Vatican said on Wednesday it will separate its bank's investment business from its Church payments work to try to clean up after years of scandal including allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. French businessman Franssu was named as the new head of the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), succeeding German lawyer Freyberg, who has run the bank since February 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

(Jean-Baptise de Franssu (L), new president of Vatican Bank IOR, outgoing President Ernst Von Freyberg (R) and Cardinal George Pell leave at the end of a news conference at the Vatican July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile ) The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Edward Hadas

Confessing one’s sins is relatively easy. Penance can be painful, but usually ends fast. Leading a better life, though, is a lot more difficult. Pope Francis is ensuring that the Vatican’s financial system is well on the way. And by doing so he is also schooling Wall Street on how to clean house.

God’s and mankind’s bankers share a patchy history. The financial sins of both stretch back decades, at least – as do efforts to overcome them. Every few years, there’s remorse. The headlines about corruption at the Vatican kept coming, though, while Wall Street hopped from one scandal to the next.

The Vatican is leading the way in setting things right. Financial reform was high on the agenda of the cardinals who chose Francis as pope. He has obliged, culminating on Wednesday with a new management team for both the Institute for Works of Religion, better known in English as the Vatican Bank, and the Vatican’s other financial business. He is also imposing a new supervisory board and organisational structure. Perhaps the most important long-term change he has made forces the bank to retreat to purely church-related business.

from The Great Debate:

What’s the 2014 election really about? Religious vs. women’s rights

Demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for the "Not My Boss's Business" rally for women's health and rights in Washington

Religious rights versus women's rights. That's about as fundamental a clash as you can get in U.S. politics. It's now at the core of the 2014 election campaign, with both parties girding for battle.

What generated the showdown was last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The decision instantly became a rallying cry for activists on both the right and left. Congressional Democrats are already proposing a law to nullify the decision. “It's shameful that a woman's access to contraception is even up for debate in 2014,” Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said.   Conservative blogger Erick Erickson crowed, “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer-subsidized, consequence-free sex.”

How did the issue become so big so fast? Because it touches some extremely sensitive nerves in the body politic.

Islamic State appeals to only four percent of Syrians: poll

(A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. There had previously been reports on social media that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would make his first public appearance since his Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name to the Islamic State and declared him caliph. The Iraqi government denied that the video, which carried Friday's date, was credible. It was also not possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording or the date when it was made. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

(A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

Only four percent of Syrians believe Islamic State insurgents, who have captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, represent their interests, according to research conducted by a British polling group published on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 1,014 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that about one in three Syrians believe President Bashar al-Assad and his government best represent Syrians’ interests.

Vatican bank clean-up and account closures wipe out 2013 profit

An exterior view of the tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) in Vatican City in 2011. A preliminary inquiry by the Vatican bank after the arrest of a Vatican prelate on suspicion of trying to smuggle huge sums of money into Italy from Switzerland found "clear failings" at the institution, a source close to the bank said on July 4, 2013. The board of the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), held a meeting on Thursday that also addressed the shock resignation of its two top managers on Monday. The meeting had not been made public. Picture taken in 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

(The Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), or Vatican bank, is located in the round tower at the right in this view of Vatican City in 2011. REUTERS/Stringer)

The Vatican bank has blocked the accounts of more than 2,000 clients and ended some 3,000 “customer relationships” as part of a clean-up process that nearly wiped out its profit, its 2013 financial statement showed on Tuesday.

The bank has been hit by years of scandal, including money laundering allegations and is about to be restructured with a new president and a new board.

Indonesian presidential hopeful prays quick Mecca trip will win votes

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. The closest and dirtiest presidential race in Indonesia's young democracy could be decided on Wednesday among the mosques and rice paddies of West Java, the nation's most populous province. Former special forces chief Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, leaving markets in Southeast Asia's largest economy under pressure and on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome. Picture taken July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

The front-runner in Wednesday’s Indonesian presidential election has flown to Mecca on a whirlwind pilgrimage in a last-ditch bid to win voters among the world’s largest Muslim population and put to rest damaging suggestions that he is really a Christian.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has seen his huge early lead in polls narrow sharply in what has become Indonesia’s dirtiest and tightest presidential race in the face of a sharp and well-financed campaign by his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

UK imams urge British Muslims to shun Syria and Iraq

(Men attend Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

(An imam addresses men attending Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

More than 100 Islamic prayer-leaders from various denominations of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims have signed a letter calling on British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria to fight.

“We urge the British Muslim communities to continue the generous and tireless efforts to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way,” said the open letter, released on Friday (for text, click here).

Muslims in China’s Xinjiang told to ignore Ramadan customs

(An Imam calls on Muslim Uighurs for their afternoon prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. Picture taken August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

(An Imam calls  Muslim Uighurs to prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

Officials in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang have told Muslims to ignore religious customs during the holy month of Ramadan, an indication of what rights groups say is discrimination targeting the Uighur minority group.

The fasting month follows a series of attacks around China, centred on Xinjiang, that Beijing has blamed on Islamists they say are seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Jordanian jihadist thinker says Islamic caliphate will cause Islamist infighting

(Militant Islamist fighters gesture as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

(Militant Islamist ISIL fighters gesture as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian scholar who is one of the most influential voices in jihadist thought, warned on Wednesday that a radical Islamist group’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria would deepen already bloody infighting among jihadists.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Sunday renamed itself the Islamic State and declared its leader “caliph” – the historical title of successors of the Prophet Mohammad who ruled the whole Muslim world – after its forces captured swathes of territory in a lightning drive across northern Iraq.

Growing concern in Muslim world about Islamist militancy: Pew survey

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. The meeting was moved to Maitama park on Friday after unidentified assailants attacked members of the group with bottles and chairs at Unity fountain on Wednesday. Nigeria's president said on Thursday he had ordered "a full-scale operation" against Boko Haram Islamist militants and sought to reassure parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would be freed. Picture taken May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Large majorities in Muslim countries are increasingly worried about Islamist militancy and oppose its best-known groups, such as the global al Qaeda movement, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Hamas, according to a new survey.

Support for violent tactics such as suicide bombing has fallen in many countries over the past decade, although some states still have significant minorities approving it, the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said.

Myanmar police fire rubber bullets to end sectarian trouble in Mandalay

(People and Buddhist monks kneel in front of the Maha Myat Muni Buddha statue in Mandalay November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

(People and Buddhist monks kneel in front of the Maha Myat Muni Buddha statue in Mandalay November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

Myanmar police fired rubber bullets on Wednesday to disperse crowds of Buddhists and Muslims facing off in the second-largest city of Mandalay, police said, in the latest outbreak of trouble in two years of sectarian unrest.

Police deployed more than 600 officers after a crowd of about 300 Buddhists including 30 monks began throwing stones near a tea shop owned by a Muslim man at 11 p.m. (1630 GMT) on Tuesday, according to a statement released by Mandalay police.