Vatican Bank – the Scandals, Net Worth, Assets, Conspiracy Facts and more!
The Vatican Bank is known as the Istituto per le Opere di Religione in Italian – or the Institute for the Works of Religion. Founded in 1942, it’s committee reports directly to the Cardinals, and ultimately the Pope.
It’s main aim is to provide financial support for the Catholic church and its works throughout the world. It also acts as a generator of revenue for the Holy See, with investments worldwide and numerous other avenues for wealth creation.
History of the Vatican Bank
In 1942 it was decided to establish an institution in the Vatican City that would act as the equivalent of a Central Bank of Vatican City affairs. It’s brief was to protect and maintain the assets or donations of funds of the Catholic Church.
Despite being linked to the Holy See, it has not been without its share of scandal. This even includes allegations of links to money laundering and other mafia activities! Not to mention the odd death. Let’s explore more about the Vatican Bank together.
Details about the investments
The Vatican Bank has its hand in a lot of investments. From private businesses to land, property and banking, there is plenty needed to fund this city state. Of course, private donations from around the Catholic world help too. They take a part of these and re-invest them in their portfolio.
The historical favourite was to invest in Italy mainly, and keep the portions small – no more than 6%. Generally, investments have been in safe haven companies with strong reputations. More recently, there has been more international activity, including on various stock markets.
Vatican Bank reform from 2010 to today
The Vatican Bank has been at the center of quite a number of scandals! (More about that later). As a result, various Pope’s have tried their hand at reform. Pope Paul 1st was perhaps the first to attempt a stab at it. Rumours and conspiracy theories abound that he did not die of a heart attack, but rather was assassinated because of it.
In 1990 John Paul II pushed for at least an internal audit process. But it was Pope Benedict who set the path for reform, and Pope Francis picked up the baton after his election.
Some of the recent reforms include:
- Change from internal audits to external audits
- The board of supervisors had to increase the number of lay people on it, reducing the influence of the cardinals (7 lay members now to 5 cardinals)
- the closure of hundreds of bank accounts that were allegedly connected with dodgy dealings
- Anti money-laundering audits
Central Bank of Vatican City scandals, conspiracy theories and money laundering
A number of scandals have hit the Vatican Bank in the past:
- the death of Pope John Paul 1, which conspiracy theorists believe was due to his penchant for reform
- The Banco Ambrosiano scandal – this Italian bank – touted as a “catholic bank” was embroiled in huge corruption investigations – and the Central Bank of Vatican City was its majority shareholder. There were deaths associated with the dealings too!
- The missing 50 million – in 2018 the Vatican charged a former bank president with embezzlement and laundering
- The Clearstream Scandal – tangled up with the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, the clearing company also experienced deaths and underhand dealings
- Dodgy political dealings. Some claim Vatican City bankers hoarded
Nazi gold, or used CIA money to support political agendas in developing countries
- Allegations that they were involved in facilitating the purchase of weapons in the Falklands War. These missiles were used against British forces. It is rumoured that the Argentines, through Peru, bought the weapons from France
Opening your own account in the Vatican Bank
Can you actually open your own bank account with the Istituto per le Opere di Religione?
Well. No. Unless you are a Vatican employee or Vatican citizen. And even then, there are quite a few hoops to jump though:
- document signed by a bishop
- document from the diocese
- passport and any visas
- Permesso di Soggiorno
- tax code
- enrollment or employment certificate
- letter from the rector
Location of the Central Bank
Enter the Vatican City at the Porta Sant’Anna, you will find the bank on the left just as you enter through the arch.
The official address is Cortile Sisto V, Cittá del Vaticano, Via Sant'Anna, 00120, Vatican City.
Frequently asked questions
From scandals to riches, there are loads of questions asked about this institution. Here are the top ones.
Where is the Vatican Bank Located?
You will find the bank within the Vatican City walls. Head to the Porta Sant’Anna and proceed through. The bank is on Via Sant’Anna.
How old is the Vatican Bank?
The bank was founded in 1942.
How rich is the Vatican Bank?
The most recent estimates from a couple of years ago put the assets of the Vatican Bank at $5.6 billion.
Can anyone own a bank account in the Vatican Bank?
No. You need to be a Vatican City resident or citizen, or an institution linked to the Catholic Church.
Does the Vatican own the Bank of America?
No. It did have a holding company called Bank America. There are probably some shareholders from the Vatican owning shares in the Bank of America.
The Vatican and its institutions have long been shrouded in mystery and, sometimes, controversy. But now you know what it’s all about. Next, get sorted with some things to do when you visit Vatican! From the treasures of the Vatican Museums through to St Peter’s Basilica, there is so much to do.
Please let us know your favourite thing to do! Oh, and we heard a rumour that the ATMs in the Vatican City have a latin language option! We have not tested this out yet – let us know if you get the chance to.