VATICAN CITY, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis took a major step Monday in tackling the Vatican's finances, issuing a papal order establishing a new department and 15-member council to run it.
ANSA reported the council will include eight cardinals and bishops and seven members of the laity, headed by Cardinal George Pell of Australia. A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Council for the Economy "will determine policy and directives" and oversee the secretariat for economic affairs.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, currently in charge of real estate and financial holdings, will act as the Vatican's central bank, Lombardi said.
The Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano said the changes are being applied through a papal order.
The changes are aimed at improving "resource utilization, increasing available support for various programs, in particular, funds for programs that revolve around the poor and marginalized," a Vatican press release said.
The secretariat will be responsible for drawing up an annual budget and will have an auditor-general empowered to "conduct audits of any agency or institution of the Holy See and the state of Vatican City," the release said.
Without naming them, the release said lay members of the council will be chosen from people with financial expertise.
ANSA said there was no mention of what will happen to the scandal-tainted Vatican Bank, which has been implicated in money laundering and other schemes.