In addition to his piousness, Pope Francis is looking to be the transparent Pope. This man seems quite content to drop the trappings of his position in order to live an almost pauper’s life. Or as much of a pauper’s life as a Pope is allowed. The Argentine is also responsible for the first ever Vatican report on its banking practices.

Vatican bank

Vatican bank transparency

To say that the Vatican bank has forever been shrouded in secrecy risks understatement. To say that it has been embroiled in scandal over the last ten years is the height of understatement.

The Vatican’s bank has published its first annual report in its 125-year history as part of an attempt to become more financially transparent.

In its first filing, the Vatican’s 2012 was all sorts of successful with the bank’s net profits quadrupling, from the year prior, to 86.6 million euros. The aforementioned profits were realized by what the Vatican called favorable trading results and an increase in the bonds it held. The profits were directly delivered to the Pope to carry out the church’s mandate around the globe.

Vatican bank report

The report shows 2012 was a successful year for the bank, with net profits more than quadrupling to 86.6m euros.

The bank’s balance sheet shows a total of $4.98 billion euros in assets and nearly 800 million euros in equity funds. It also has a sizable amount of precious metals and inherited two properties in fiscal 2012.

German banker Ernst Von Freyberg presently heads the IOR and is endeavoring to cut out corruption and have the bank looked at as a well-respected member of the global financial community.

“The annual report seeks to contribute to the transparency which the Catholic Church, our customers, our correspondent banks, our authorities and the public rightfully expect,” he said.

Bank involved in reform

Mr Von Freyberg added that the bank had been “been engaged in a process of far-reaching reform” to improve its organization, compliance and transparency.

The IOR has been accused of money laundering and lack of due diligence in allowing non-religious businessmen to hold accounts in what amounts to an international offshore tax haven.

In August, Pope Francis stepped up the fight against corruption at the Vatican by strengthening supervision of financial transactions at the bank. Perhaps in his biggest move regarding the bank, the Pope set up a commission to investigate the bank and report back to him directly.

Senior cleric’s account freeze

In July, the Vatican froze the account of a senior cleric, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, suspected of involvement in money-laundering. He and two others were arrested by Italian police in June on suspicion of trying to move 20m euros ($26m; £17m) illegally.

Following the arrest, the Vatican announced that it has “zero tolerance for any activity, whether conducted by laity or clergy, that is illegal or outside the Statutes of the Institute”.