The POPE Encyclopedia

by Matthew Bunson

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The financial institution of the Holy See  that  administers
the  banking  needs  of  the population and officials of the
Vatican City State. Known officially as the  Institutio  per
le  Opere  di  Religione (Institute for Works of Religigion,
IOR), the bank is one of the best  known  of  the  financial
departments  in  the  Vatican,  with  the Prefecture for the
Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Administration of  the
Patrimony  of  the  Apostolic See (APSA), and the Council of
Cardinals for  the  Study  of  Organizational  and  Economic
Problems of the Holy See. Aside from fulfilling the ordinary
and day-to-day banking needs  of  the  diplomats.  heads  of
religious orders, special clients, and others who work in or
are associated Wittl the Vatican, the bank  makes  important
contributions  to  the  investment strategy of the Holy See.
The bank also has authority over  funds  that  are,  as  the
title  of the  bank itself declares, works of religion --the
numerous programs around the world devoted to  the  care  of
The  IOR  dates  back  to the organization founded in1887 by
Pope Leo XIII under the title  Administration  of  Religious
Works,  set  up to administer funds for religious endeavors.
In 1942,  Pope  Pius  XII  replaced  this  office  with  the
formally established IOR. Pius. however, changed its overall
mission by charging it with the oversight of all monies,  as
well  as property, cash, and bonds, that were transferred or
entrusted to the bank for those works of  religion;  it  was
also to administer the funds of the many religious orders of
the Church.  The  IOR  played  a  significant  role  in  the
safeguarding  of  the Church's finances during the turbulent
years of the  Second  World  War,  Using  its  international
associations  to  take  precautions  against the threat of a
Nazi takeover of the Vatican.
The Vatican Bank is best known  today  for  the  sensational
scandals  to  which  its name was attachcd in the late 1970s
and early 1980s.  Over  the  last  years,  the  Vatican  has
attempted  to  repair  the damage both to the reputation and
credibility of the the IOR,  culminating  in  the  March  1,
1990,  reform  of  the bank at the command of Pope John Paul
II, part of his  program  of  changes  pertaining  to  papal

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