Following a corruption scandal in the Vatican and clashes between its boards and their leaders, Pope Francis has replaced an all-Italian team that was in charge of handling the church's finances with one that is more diverse in its composition.
The Argentina-born Pope Francis, who assumed his title over a year ago, is the first non-European to hold the position, and has made it a priority to tackle the financial scandals that have rocked the Vatican. In 2013, the Financial Information Authority, or AIF, registered more than 200 transactions of a dubious nature, and called for a wide-ranging investigation starting with the first one dating back to 2012. In comparison, in the year before that, only six suspicious transactions were reported.
In a bid to reform the Vatican's banking structure, the Pope has now appointed a woman, for the first time, to AIF's board, which manages the Vatican’s finances. Political clashes between the Vatican's various departments and AIF had led to the resignation of Cardinal Attilio Nicora from his post as authority president earlier this year, according to Associated Press.
The Pope's decision to replace the entire board is reportedly the result of strong support from Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss anti-money laundering expert, who was appointed as the head of AIF in 2012 and under whose leadership the Vatican entered close to a dozen financial information sharing agreements with various countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"The key is trying to avoid that there are more of them [financial scandals]," Pope Francis said on a flight to Rome in May, according to the Journal, adding: "Economic administration calls for honesty and transparency."
The new board members reportedly include Juan Carlos Zarate, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and a former member in the U.S. treasury; Marc Odendall, a Franco-German who was formerly employed with Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) before entering the field of philanthropy; Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, an adviser to the Singapore president; and, Maria Bianca Farina, an Italian insurance specialist.