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IOR appointment confirms Pope Francis is steering Vatican bank back to its roots

by Carlo Marroni

A man the Pope actually trusts will be at the helm of IOR (Istituto per le Opere di Religione or more simply, the so-called “Vatican Bank”). An inside man who knows the ropes but above all, the spirit of the “opere di religione”, i.e. “religious works”. Pope Francis has appointed Gian Franco Mammì, who was Vice Director the past few months, as the new Director-General. The Pope himself informed the board of directors of his decision, which has not come as a surprise: Rolando Marranci, a tried-and-true executive who had managed the transition stage after the sudden stepdown of Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli – in the wake of the Scarano scandal in July 2013 – had been considered to be on his way out for some time.

Yesterday's appointment, however, was characterized by a rather singular aspect: the Pope advised the board chaired by Frenchman Jean Baptiste de Franssu – a board that was theoretically responsible for the decision. The fact that the Pope is kingmaker within the walls of the Vatican is no news; the manner and official nature of the appointment, however, confirms Bergoglio keeps a close eye on IOR's fate, something that was made clear last April, when he personally vetoed the planned SICAV in Luxembourg, which had already been approved by the board and was subsequently stopped by the Supervisory Body of Cardinals headed by cardinal Santos Abril y Castello and comprising cardinals Pietro Parolin, Jean Louis Tauran and Christoph Schoenborn.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio encountered Mammì when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, at the time of the Argentinian crisis that put considerable strain on the diocese's cashflow. Mammì has a reputation for being an “old-school” official, rigorous and reserved. He was apparently somewhat relegated to the sidelines for a lengthy stretch of time, by comparison with his previous responsibilities in relations with clients: especially so under the Caloja-Scaletti management, which was investigated by Vatican magistrates about a year ago concerning the sale of IOR-owned real estate. Again, it was the Pope who suggested his appointment to Vice Director a few months ago. The present designation may well highlight the direction Bergoglio has in mind for IOR, that is its return to functions related to “religious works” and services – thus, careful management of the money collected from donations and its transferral to missionary areas rather than playing the role of an “investment bank”.