Pope allows Vatican bank to stay open

(AP)Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed the importance of greater transparency within the Vatican's financial system.

Pope Francis has announced today that the Vatican Bank will remain open and operational as it undergoes a series of reforms.

The bank, known as the Institute of the Works of Religion (IOR), has been involved in many scandals in recent years, including money laundering and several cases of fraud.

An investigation into one series of incidents involving the IOR uncovered the existence of a homosexual clergy sex ring.

In 2010 all Italian banks ceased trading with the IOR because it did not comply with the Bank of Italy's demand that strict anti-money laundering policies should be adhered to.

But a statement from the Vatican has announced that ongoing reforms have resulted in an institution the Pope is happy to endorse – for now. The Vatican's communique said: "The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialised financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide.

"The valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry."

In February, the Pope set up a new Vatican body known as the Secretariat for the Economy to help end the corruption, office politics and bureaucratic infighting that had previously existed within the bank.

The head of this new office, 72-year-old Australian Cardinal George Pell, has been working with the IOR's German president Ernst von Freyberg to make the bank more transparent and purge it of suspicious activity.

This effort has involved the closing of hundreds of accounts, launching dozens of investigations, and ensuring full compliance with international trading and transparency standards.

The Vatican said that the efforts of Cardinal Pell and Mr von Freyberg, along with others, has created a "plan to ensure that the IOR can fulfil its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See".