Vatican finance clean-up reveals extra €1.1 billion

The Vatican has made clear that there had been no wrongdoing or "illegal, illicit or badly administered funds"Reuters

The Pope's clean-up of Vatican finances led by Cardinal George Pell has resulted in nearly a billion euros being added to overall assets that were previously not declared.

Cardinal Pell had indicated at the end of last year that some departments had a lot of money hidden away and off the main balance sheets, meaning the Catholic Church's finances at the centre were in a better state than expected.

He said last December: "It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke. Apart from the pension fund... the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments. We have discovered that the situation is 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."

The precise amount was made clear this week when the Vatican published its 2014 financial statement. The inclusion of the "tucked away" funds of €1.114 billion meant net assets increased by nearly €939 million, about a third of total assets.

Cardinal Pell, brought in from Australia to oversee reforms to bring the Vatican in line with international banking standards, and the Vatican made clear that there had been no wrongdoing or "illegal, illicit or badly administered funds" but that the separate departments had been allowed to manage their own finances as they saw fit. The Vatican said the statement revealed "the first important steps" taken by Cardinal Pell.

Most of the Holy See's departments in Rome and also embassies around the world reported a budget deficit of €25.6 million, similar to the €24.4 million euro the previous year. The improved performance reflects the enhancements to the management of the Vatican's investments. If this year's account standards had been in place in 2013, the deficit then would have been as much as €37.2 million euro.

Vatican City State, which has a separate budget, reported a surplus of €63.5 million, almost double last year's due to the six million visitors to the Vatican museums.

The biggest cost was the payroll for 2,880 people, amounting to €126.6 million.

The financial statement was presented at the Council for the Economy meeting earlier this week by Cardinal Pell and the staff from the Secretariat for the Economy. The statement had been verified by an external auditor.

Last year was described as "a year of transition to new Financial Management policies based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards." This made direct comparison with 2013 figures difficult.

The Vatican reported: "The journey of transition to new policies is progressing well and the Secretariat was pleased to report high levels of interest and cooperation in the entities. The 2014 Financial Statements reflect an enormous amount of work by staff in many Holy See entities, particularly in the Prefecture for Economic Affairs and the Secretariat for the Economy and Council members expressed their gratitude for the rigorous and professional work and the strong commitment to implementing the financial reforms approved by the Holy Father."

The Vatican also said that while rapid progress is being made in implementing the reforms of Pope Francis, the complete transition to the new standards is likely to take several years.