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Pope sets up body to reform Vatican's economic affairs

By Hada Messia and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
(File) Pope Francis waves to the crowd of faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square on March 19 in Vatican City.
(File) Pope Francis waves to the crowd of faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square on March 19 in Vatican City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pope Francis' committee will look at economic activities in the Holy See
  • The Vatican bank is already under scrutiny after years of financial scandals
  • The new commission is tasked with coming up with reforms for Vatican institutions
  • It's made up of legal and financial experts, as well as a member of the clergy

Rome (CNN) -- Pope Francis has set up an expert committee to recommend reforms to the economic and administrative structures of the Holy See, the Vatican announced Friday.

The Vatican bank has been plagued by financial scandals for years, and the new committee comes in addition to measures the pope has already taken to try to sort out the bank's problems.

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Established Thursday, it will report to the pontiff and is tasked with coming up with reforms aimed at the "simplification and rationalisation of the existing bodies and more careful planning of the economic activities of all Vatican Administrations," a news release said.

Only one member of the eight-person committee is a cleric, with the others picked for their legal, economic and organizational expertise, it said. Most of the eight come from European nations.

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The body will "offer the technical support of specialist advice and develop strategic solutions for improvement, so as to avoid the misuse of economic resources, to improve transparency in the processes of purchasing goods and services; to refine the administration of goods and real estate; to work with ever greater prudence in the financial sphere; to ensure correct application of accounting principles; and to guarantee healthcare and social security benefits to all those eligible," the statement said.

The committee, which will also coordinate with the Catholic Church's cardinals, will begin its work as soon as possible.

A first meeting is scheduled for shortly after the pope returns from his weeklong trip Brazil this month.

Money laundering investigation

In June, the pope established a five-person papal commission to investigate the activities of the Vatican bank.

That announcement came shortly after a financial watchdog agency established in 2010 issued its first report on money laundering, in a move to improve financial transparency in the city-state.

The document from the Financial Intelligence Authority showed six reports of "suspicious activity" in the past year, up from just one in 2011. Two were being probed by Vatican investigators.

The Vatican bank is also working to improve transparency, announcing in June that it would launch a website to publish an annual report of its activities.

The bank serves thousands of Catholic charities, religious orders and dioceses around the world, in addition to roughly 500 people living in the tiny city-state. It has some 33,400 accounts and about $8 billion in assets.

CNN's Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.

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