In midst of cardinal scandal, pope seeks to reassure money inspectors
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis tried Thursday to reassure external inspectors of the Vatican's financial operations that he was pushing reforms when a scandal struck the Holy See in which he sacked a powerful cardinal.
In an address to Moneyval, the Council of Europe's financial watchdog arm, Francis listed the recent steps he had taken to make the Vatican's finances more transparent.
He appeared to be referring to the recent Vatican financial scandals when he quoted the gospel story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple and telling them, "You cannot serve both God and money."
Last month the Pope dismissed the Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu and accused him of embezzlement and nepotism. Becciu has denied any wrongdoing.
Moneyval conducts one of its regular inspections to verify that the Vatican is complying with international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
"The measures you are evaluating are to encourage 'clean finance' that will prevent the 'merchants' from speculating in this sacred 'temple'," said Francis.
Italian media this week conducted interviews with a woman who said she had received 500,000 euros from Becciu to conduct "parallel diplomacy" to help missionaries in conflict areas.
Cecilia Marogna's alleged work for the State Secretariat of the Vatican, in which Becciu held number two until 2018, was not yet known.
In an email reply to Reuters on Wednesday, Beccius' lawyer Fabio Viglione said the cardinal knew Marogna but that his dealings with her had resulted in "strictly institutional matters". He did not mention her comments on the funds, which Marogna said went through a company she founded in Slovenia.
Marogna, 39, who, like Becciu, comes from Sardinia, did not reply to a message from Reuters by telephone.
Speaking to the inspectors, Francis indicated that he agreed to adopt new rules on procurement and spending in June to cut costs, ensure transparent competition and reduce the risk of corruption in the procurement process.
Moneyval has given the Vatican increasingly positive ratings since its first inspection eight years ago, but laments the slowness of its judiciary in conducting investigations and bringing charges.
In his email, Beccius' attorney also denied Italian media reports that his client sent money to Australia to help enemies of Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican Economy Minister, who was acquitted this year after 13 months in prison for sexual abuse in Australia has been.
Pell had accused Becciu of blocking financial reforms in the Vatican, and after Becciu was released, Pell said the Pope "should be thanked and congratulated".
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)
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