Cardinals present pope with proposals for financial reform

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - Cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming Vatican finances gave him their proposals on Wednesday with one suggesting a new central economic ministry that would incorporate the Holy See's scandal-plagued bank.

An eight-member advisory board of cardinals from around the world had concluded three days of meetings and reached its conclusions, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters at a briefing.

"They have formulated their proposals and now it will be up to the pope to decide which direction to go, to decide what to do," Lombardi said.

The board of cardinals heard reports from two commissions, one on economic affairs in general and another specifically about the Vatican's troubled bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Pope Francis has not ruled out closing the IOR altogether if it cannot be reformed and has said he wants the Vatican to adhere to international standards of financial transparency.

There have been suggestions that a new ministry may be set up in the Vatican to deal with all of its financial matters, which are now handled by the bank and several other departments.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, one of the eight cardinals advising the pope, told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix that he believed a "finance secretariat"could be established.

"It's a very reasonable idea, and I think it is necessary to be better organised," he said, listing the five Vatican departments, including the IOR, which handle Holy See finances.

Lombardi said there would be no formal announcement on the future of the bank or other Vatican financial departments until the pope made his decision.

The eight cardinals from Italy, Chile, India, Germany, Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States, Australia and Honduras are advising Francis on how to reform the Curia, the Vatican's often dysfunctional central administration.

Pope Francis has a packed week of meetings about reform with top Church officials in Rome for ceremonies this Saturday when the pope will create 19 new cardinals from around the world.

The bank has been embroiled in scandal several times in the past decades. Italian magistrates are still investigating the IOR's former managers on suspicion of money laundering, a charge the Vatican denies.

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