By Vatican News
With the Motu Proprio focusing on areas of competence in economic and financial matters, dated December 26 and published today, Pope Francis authorizes the transfer of the management of financial investments and real estate holdings owned by the Secretariat of State (including the administration of Peter’s Pence), over to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), effective as of 1 January 2021. Pope Francis previously announced this decision last August in a letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin; it was then subsequently developed by a special "Commission of transfer and control" established in early November.
The transfer marks a significant step towards a centralized management of investments, which decreases autonomy, increases oversight, and demonstrates how Pope Francis not only launches reforms, but accompanies them with precise guidelines. At the beginning of the Motu Proprio, the Pope writes that "a better organization of the administration, control and supervision of the economic and financial activities of the Holy See" is fundamental in the reform of the Curia "to ensure transparent and efficient management and clear destinction of competencies and roles". On the basis of this principle, the "Secretariat of State, which also supports more closely and directly the action of the Supreme Pontiff in his mission and represents an essential point of reference for the activities of the Roman Curia, it is not appropriate for it to carry out economic and financial roles already under the competence of other Dicasteries".
In the first article of the Motu Proprio, the Pope establishes that starting from 1 January 2021, "the ownership of funds and bank accounts, of securities and real estate investments, including investments in companies and investment funds, up until now registered in the name of the Secretariat of State" will be transferred to APSA, “which will handle their management and administration”. They will be subject to ad hoc oversight by the Secretariat for the Economy (SPE), which "from now on will also perform the function of Papal Secretariat for Economic and Financial Matters".
The Secretariat of State "will transfer as soon as possible, no later than 4 February 2021, all its cash funds held in bank accounts in its name at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) or in foreign bank accounts to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See to the bank account it designates”. If it is not possible or advantageous to change ownership of the accounts, the Secretariat of State must provide the President of APSA with a general power of attorney by 4 February, "giving him exclusive powers of ordinary and extraordinary administration" for "the management of bank accounts; the management of shares and securities held by the Secretariat of State; the exercise of the rights deriving from the holdings of the Secretariat of State in companies and investment funds; the management of properties owned directly or indirectly by the Secretariat of State".
Starting from the financial year 2021, the papal document indicates, "contributions for any reason due or freely devolved to the Holy See by ecclesial authorities of any type", including those of the Governorate and the IOR, "will be deposited in an account called the General Budget of the Holy See, managed by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See according to current norms, on the basis of the approved budget”. The transfers of the amounts from the General Budget account to APSA must be authorized by the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. The payment of ordinary and extraordinary expenses of the Secretariat of State will be made by APSA according to "the budget of the same Secretariat approved on the basis of current legislation".
In the second article Pope Francis establishes that APSA establish a budget provision called Papal Funds, which, for greater transparency, will be included in the consolidated financial statements of the Holy See, for which separate accounting must be kept, with the opening of specific sub-accounts for Peter’s Pence and the "Discretionary Fund of the Holy Father", as well as each of the funds with particular donation requirements designated by the donors. Each of these funds maintains its own purpose. APSA will update the Secretariat of State on the status of these funds. The expenses and other movements of funds from the Holy Father's Discretionary Fund may only be carried out according to “his personal decision”. The non-budgeted payments or investments authorized by the President of APSA, must always bear the co-signature of the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
The third article deals with supervision and control. It establishes that all the entities noted in article 1 §1 of the Statutes of the Council for the Economy, including those hitherto under the economic and financial control of the Secretariat of State, "are subject to the control, supervision and direction of the Secretariat for the Economy as defined by its Statutes and by current norms, with the sole exception of those authorities for which the Holy Father has expressly provided otherwise". The budget and final balances "are sent to the Secretariat for the Economy, which submits them to the Council for the Economy for their approval".
Lastly, in the fourth article, the Pope establishes that the Administrative Office of the Secretariat of State maintain "only those human resources necessary to carry out the activities relating to its internal administration, the preparation of its budget and final balance and other non-administrative functions carried out so far ". The Office's archives concerning investments and funds is to be transferred to APSA.
(This article is a working translation of the Italian original. Quotes from the Motu Proprio a working translation from the Italian.)