VATICAN CITY — Paolo Cipriani, director of the Vatican Bank, resigned today, along with his deputy, Massimo Tulli, “in the best interest of the Institute [for Religious Works] and the Holy See,” according to a Vatican statement.
The Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, has begun the process of finding permanent replacements to fill the positions.
Meanwhile, Ernst von Freyberg, who was appointed president of IOR’s supervisory board in February, as part of the group’s reform, has been appointed interim director, and his interim deputy will be Rolando Marranci.
Antonio Montaresi fills a newly created position, chief risk officer, to oversee compliance and special projects.
Marranci has previously worked as chief operating officer at an Italian bank in London, while Montaresi has been chief risk and chief compliance officer with several U.S. banks.
“Since 2010, the IOR and its management have been working hard to bring structures and processes in line with international standards for anti-money laundering,” von Freyberg said in a July 1 press release from the Vatican Press Office.
“While we are grateful for what has been achieved, it is clear today that we need new leadership to increase the pace of this transformation process.”
“Our progress is in no small measure due to the continued support from the governing bodies of the institute and its personnel,” he added.
The Italian media has connected the resignations with scandals surrounding the Vatican Bank, which has been working towards reform.
Cipriani had served as director of the organization since 2007, and, in 2010, he was investigated by Italian officials for money laundering, along with IOR’s then-president, Ettore Tedeschi. Prosecutors had seized some $30 million from a Vatican account at a Roman bank.
Though neither were charged, the Vatican quickly launched a reform of its banking policy, encouraging transparency.
In December 2010, Benedict XVI created the Financial Information Authority, tasked with policing the financial and commercial dealings of all Vatican agencies, including the Vatican Bank.
In July 2012, Europe’s anti-money-laundering agency Moneyval found that the Vatican met nine of the 16 “key and core” areas for combating terrorist financing and money laundering.
“The Holy See has come a long way in a very short period of time, and many of the building blocks of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are now formally in place,” the report said.
In September 2012, Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart was recruited by the Vatican to assist in further improving financial transparency as head of the Financial Information Authority.
Von Freyberg was appointed president of Vatican Bank on Feb. 15 as part of an ongoing effort to revamp the institute by updating its controls against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Last week, former Vatican employee Msgr. Nuncio Scarano was arrested, alongside two other individuals, for allegedly trying to move 20 million euros ($26 million U.S. dollars) from Switzerland into Italy illegally.
Msgr. Scarano was a senior accountant at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See until his suspension a month ago, and he had an account at the Vatican Bank, although he did not work for the organization.
A Vatican official told Catholic News Agency under condition of anonymity on June 26 that the Vatican is considering whether the IOR “fulfills the mission of the Church in its current structure or if it needs to be reformed.”
Pope Francis has appointed a board of five members to report to him about the organization’s “legal position” and activities and to help “harmonize the institute with the universal mission of the Apostolic See,” the official explained.
The commission will not interfere with the work of the Financial Information Authority.
The Vatican Bank receives and administers funds for charitable activities, especially in the developing world, where the financial strength of institutions is not always robust. It has 114 employees and was founded in 1942.