Pope Francis (free use2)

Cate Hopkins,

Corespondent (Politics)

The Vatican has announced that it has created an expert committee to reform the economic structure of the Holy See.

The Committee faces the task of simplifying the economic workings of the Holy See, as well as improving the transparency of its processes.

This is the latest signal from Pope Francis of his commitment to Papal reform.

The Church that he inherited was one rocked by scandal, least of which was the news that it faced accusations of corrupt financial practice such as the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices. The extent of this crisis was only revealed in full when Pope Francis’ own butler leaked the content of a secret report left by Pope Benedict XVI, in what has become known as the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal.

For an institution so besieged by corruption and scandal, the announcement was received with enthusiasm.

The reforms will be implemented by a Committee of seven lay-people and one member of the Clergy who will act as Secretary. The inclusion of lay-people (of whom, 6 are European) brings a crucial element of impartiality to proceedings – as much impartiality as can be allowed for such a pervasive institution. The heavily-weighted European contingency also brings promise that the new structure will be brought more in line with local practices. Its current practices have been described as a “patchwork approach” that results in nobody knowing quite what is going on.

It is the promise of transparency that brings the biggest hope for modernity.

It has been announced that a website will be launched publishing an annual report of the Vatican’s economic activity. The practice of publishing economic reports in the public domain is common practice amongst the larger institutions in Europe.

For the Vatican, it will lift the veil on an institution that has so often appeared cloaked in secrecy, scandal and corruption.

Since his appointment, Pope Francis has made it clear that he intends to ditch the elaborate adornments traditionally associated with his role as head of the Catholic Church. This latest announcement is the first step in his commitment to tightening the purse strings.

It is a sign of his commitment to the poor that has increased his popularity over and above that of his predecessor.

Above all, it is a sign that the Pope means business. The results of the Committee’s findings are to be reported to the Pope himself, bypassing the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s chief administrative body, itself the subject of a corruption scandal.

It points towards a Pope who is not only committed to deep, penetrating change but a man who is personally prepared to see it through.

Image courtesy: Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons, Casa Rosada (http://www.casarosada.gov.ar/informacion/actividad-oficial/26392-la-presidenta-se-reune-con-el-papa-francisco-en-ciudad-del-vaticano) via Wikimedia Commons