Pope Francis appoints prelate to oversee Vatican bank

image captionFounded in 1942, the Vatican bank has 114 employees and $7.1bn of assets under management

Pope Francis has taken his first major step towards reforming to the troubled Vatican bank, naming a trusted cleric to oversee its management.

The Vatican said Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca had been approved as interim prelate of the Institute for Religious Works, as the bank is known.

Msgr Ricca currently runs a number of Church-owned properties.

The IOR, considered one of the world's most secretive banks, has been at the centre of several scandals.

In February, German lawyer Ernst von Freyberg was named the IOR's new chairman, eight months after his predecessor was ousted amid a money laundering probe.

The appointment was one of the last acts of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who became the first Pope to resign in 600 years later that month.

In May, Mr von Freyberg said he was instituting checks on the IOR's 19,000 accounts, which are mostly held by Vatican employees, charities, priests and nuns.

Although Msgr Ricca was nominated by Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican announcement made clear that Pope Francis personally backed the appointment.

Msgr Ricca runs the hotel where the Pope is living while his official residence is renovated.

As the prelate of the IOR - a post that has been vacant since 2011 - Msgr Ricca will report to the five-member commission of cardinals that oversees the bank, attend board meetings and have access to information on its financial activities.

The IOR is currently seeking recognition from the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering committee, Moneyval, that it is fully compliant with international standards on combating money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist financing.

Last year, Moneyval said the bank was making progress but needed to improve.

The bank's rules for customer due diligence, wire transfers and suspicious-transaction reporting were insufficient, and it needed an independent supervisor, Moneyval added.

Founded in 1942, the bank has 114 employees and $7.1bn of assets.

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