Pope Francis meets with prelates, nuns and seminarists at the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, in East Jerusalem, on May 26. Cardinal George Pell, named secretariat for the economy by the pope, said he found hundreds of millions of euros off the Vatican's balance sheet. File photo by Jack Guez/UPI. | License Photo
VATICAN CITY, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The cardinal in charge of the financial reform of the Vatican said his office has found hundreds of millions of euros that didn't appear on church's balance sheet.
Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, a new position created by Pope Francis in February in response to allegations of financial corruption at the Vatican Bank -- officially known as the Institute for Religious Works -- wrote about the discovery for the new Catholic Herald magazine.
He said the finding of the money "tucked away" in various departments was part of a push for greater transparency of the church's finances. Instead of an indication of further corruption, Pell said the money meant the Vatican's finances are better than first thought.
"It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke. Apart from the pension fund, which needs to be strengthened for the demands on it in 15 or 20 years, the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments," Pell wrote.
"In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet. It is another question, impossible to answer, whether the Vatican should have much larger reserves."
Pell wrote that it had been difficult to encourage transparency among certain Vatican entities.
"I once read that Pope Leo XIII sent an apostolic visitor to Ireland to report on the Catholic Church there," he wrote. "On his return, the Holy Father's first question was: 'How did you find the Irish bishops?' The visitor replied that he could not find any bishops, but only 25 popes.
"So it was with the Vatican finances. Congregations, Councils and, especially, the Secretariat of State enjoyed and defended a healthy independence. Problems were kept 'in house' (as was the custom in most institutions, secular and religious, until recently). Very few were tempted to tell the outside world what was happening, except when they needed extra help."