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Pope orders controversial Vatican investments ditched

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This handout photo taken and released on November 4, 2020, by the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis (C) speaking during a private and restricted weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by – / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) /

Pope Francis has blunted the powers of the Vatican department involved in a controversial London property deal and ordered all ties cut with a suspect investment fund, his spokesman said Thursday.

Francis has ordered that the funds of the Secretariat of State, the nerve centre of the bureaucracy of the 1.3 billion-member Church, be controlled by another department, allowing three months for the changes to take place.

The pontiff created a commission Wednesday to oversee the changes, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, following a vast financial scandal which has already cost one high-ranking Catholic cardinal his post.

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The order was made in a letter to the Secretariat in August which was published in a rare move on Thursday.

Influential Italian cardinal Angelo Becciu, pushed out by the pope in September, was number two in the Secretariat of State, and linked to the purchase of a luxury building in London, which is now subject to an investigation.

Becciu stands accused of giving financier Enrico Crasso, a former Credit Suisse manager, control over millions of euros of Vatican investment funds, including from Peter’s Pence — collection money destined for the poor.

Crasso also manages an investment fund — Centurion Global Fund — with links to Swiss banks that are being investigated for money laundering scandals, according to Italy’s investigative weekly L’Espresso.

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The Vatican invested millions of euros into that fund, which lost money, while Crasso and others made millions in fees, the weekly has alleged.

Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.

Management of the Secretariat of State’s funds will be handed to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), the office that manages real estate holdings in Rome and elsewhere in Italy.

“Particular attention should be paid to the investments made in London and the Centurion fund, from which it is necessary to exit as soon as possible,” Francis said in his letter to the Secretariat.

If that was not possible, the Vatican should at at least deal with them “in such a way as to eliminate all reputational risks”, he insisted.

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