VATICAN CITY — The drama surrounding the Pope's resignation did not prevent the Vatican from moving ahead with filling the top post at its main financial institution.
The Institute for the Works of Religion, frequently called the Vatican Bank, announced Feb. 15 that Ernst von Freyberg will be the new president of the institute’s supervisory board.
“This decision is the result of extensive evaluation and a series of interviews that the Commission of Cardinals has conducted, with the constant support of the supervisory board,” a Feb. 15 communiqué said.
The process to select the best candidate took six months and involved 40 potential candidates that were presented by an independent hiring agency, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
The Commission of Cardinals presented their preferred candidate to the board of the institute on Feb. 14, and von Freyberg was agreed upon.
Father Lombardi said that von Freyberg will live in Germany but will be present at the Vatican three times a week.
The incoming president will inherit a financial situation that is better than it was a few years ago but still has room to improve.
In 2010, the director and the president of the bank were both investigated by the Italian financial authorities for failing to follow anti-money-laundering protocol. Although no charges were filed, the Vatican still had $30 million in assets tied up during the course of the investigation.
Pope Benedict reacted to the situation in December 2010 by creating the Financial Information Authority. It is tasked with policing the financial and commercial dealings of all Vatican agencies, including the Vatican Bank.
The last president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was fired by the board in May 2012 for poor job performance and erratic behavior.
In July 2012, Europe’s anti-money-laundering agency Moneyval found the Vatican “compliant” or “largely compliant” on 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.
Father Lombardi said that von Freyberg “has been chosen to deal with all the problems the IOR has. It’s believed he is a competent person to deal with this.”
“I’m absolutely calm about this decision because he is a very qualified man,” he said.
The new bank president brings a wide range of experience with him. He began his career as a lawyer, but, in 1991, he founded and led Daiwa Corporate Advisory GmbH. In 2012, he became chairman of the Blohm+Voss Group, which builds and services mechanical components for ships.
He currently sits on the boards of Flossbach von Storch AG, an asset management firm with 8 billion euro in assets, and Manpower GmbH, a temporary work service firm with 600 million euro in revenue.
According to the Feb. 15 Vatican communiqué, Pope Benedict “has closely followed the entire selection process leading to the choice of the new president of the supervisory board of the IOR, and he has expressed his full consent to the choice made by the Commission of Cardinals.”