Pope Francis Implements Crucial Financial Reforms for Vatican Administration and City-State

Vatican City – Pope Francis has issued two new apostolic letters, bringing changes to the financial regulations for Vatican curial offices and the Vatican city state. These amendments aim to streamline and update existing laws while aligning them with the pope’s 2021 apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium, which focuses on the governance of the Roman curia.

One significant change introduced by Pope Francis is the establishment of a new threshold for acts of “extraordinary administration.” These are major financial decisions that could potentially impact the stability of an institution’s assets. Previously, dioceses worldwide had their financial thresholds for seeking special approval from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Clergy. The new threshold for Vatican curial and city state institutions is now set at 2% of the annual operating budget of the body or 150,000 euros, whichever is higher.

Another noteworthy amendment relates to the environmental policies of Vatican business norms. In 2020, Pope Francis included provisions barring companies that had committed “serious breaches of environmental obligations” from doing business with the Vatican. With the recent changes, these environmental concerns have been elevated into the main guiding principles of Vatican business norms. The pope’s encyclical letter, Laudato si’, on the environment, has been incorporated into the norms. Additionally, a special commission will be created within the Secretariat for the Economy to review cases where business contracts may conflict with the Church’s social teachings.

The recent apostolic letters also introduce a new category of “decentralized body,” allowing curial departments and Vatican-affiliated institutions to conduct their own business apart from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). While the 2020 norms permitted institutions to request special permission for external contracts and purchasing, the recent changes formalize this arrangement and even allow for joint purchasing among decentralized bodies. This marks a significant departure from APSA’s role as the centralized asset and fund manager for Vatican departments.

Moreover, the new regulations address factors learned from experience and the financial trial. Restrictions on doing business with trusts have been loosened, as long as the actual beneficiary can be identified. The revised norms also prohibit Vatican departments from engaging in business with companies or trusts registered in “states or territories with privileged tax regimes.” These changes would have prevented the Secretariat of State’s London property deal, which triggered the Vatican financial scandal and trial, involving entities registered in tax havens. The revisions further expand the ban on doing business with those convicted of financial crimes to include individuals currently under investigation. Additionally, those found to have violated ethical rules established by their professional orders will now be excluded from Vatican business.

Pope Francis’s apostolic letters aim to bring greater clarity and update the financial regulations within the Vatican. These changes seek to enhance financial oversight, control curial budgets, align with environmental principles, and introduce decentralized business practices. With these amendments, the Vatican continues to prioritize transparency and ethical conduct in its financial dealings.