The 1 July resignation of Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli – director and deputy director of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), the so-called ‘Vatican bank’ – followed shortly after Pope Francis’ decision to establish an investigative commission into the bank’s operations, and the arrest on 28 June of a senior cleric and two alleged accomplices over an attempt to smuggle €20 million from Switzerland.

Part of the strategy is no doubt to reduce the impact of charges that Italian magistrates may bring against IOR. But it also appears that the pontiff’s inner circle and the Italian judiciary are de facto allies in trying to bring daylight into the bank’s operations.

That was one of the mandates that the Papal Conclave handed the former Buenos Aires archbishop: cleaning up Vatican finances as part of an overall effort to repair the Holy See’s tattered image. The new Pope seems determined to fulfill this mandate. Italian prosecutors have a different goal: preventing IOR from being used for criminal money laundering on Italian territory. Their success is needed to stop the Vatican’s bleeding of money and moral credibility.

Massimo Franco is a political columnist for the leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera. He is the author of ‘The First Global Pope’ in the June-July issue of Survival.

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