The Catholic Church in Australia cannot explain why more than $ 1.8 billion (approximately € 1.5 billion) has been transferred from accounts in the Vatican to accounts in Australia since 2014.
The value of the more than 40,000 transfers was revealed by AUSTRAC, the Australian Transaction Report Analysis Center, at the request of an MP shortly before Christmas, according to the news site “Crux”, and published in the last days by the newspaper “L’Australien”.
Australian bishops have been surprised by the values and guarantee that no dollars have gone to dioceses or any Catholic organization they are aware of. The Australian Church plans to seek further details from AUSTRAC and the Vatican itself.
One of the most surprising aspects is the volume of transfers. To give you an idea, the annual budget for the entire Holy See is approximately $ 350 million.
In 2020, a suspicious transfer of seven hundred thousand dollars from the Vatican to Australia had already been reported. At the time, the Italian press speculated that this money could have been sent on the orders of Cardinal Becciu, who had in the meantime been forced by Pope Francis to resign, possibly with the intention of influencing the trial of Australian Cardinal George Pell, with whom Becciu public disagreements in the past.
Pell was appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis to help clean up the financial services of the Holy See, which had a bad reputation. As part of this cleanup operation, he even ordered an external audit of all Vatican departments, but which Becciu canceled.
The transfers that AUSTRAC refers to began precisely in 2014, shortly before charges were brought that Pell had abused minors in the past. The cardinal has always denied the charges but suspended his post in Rome to return to Australia to face the trial. He was convicted at first and second instance, but was eventually released by the Supreme Court, which found that there were no grounds to support his conviction.
Australian financial and law enforcement authorities haven’t even officially investigated the transfer of $ 700,000, the address of which remains unknown, but the Australian Church wants answers to the new data.
“The Australian bishops were not notified of the transfers until AUSTRAC released the information, just before Christmas. Although details on the number and amount of the payments have been provided, there is still no information on the recipient (s) or on the continuation of the transfers, ”said Bishop Richard Umbers, assistant in Sydney.
The prelate added that “contrary to existing stereotypes, the Church just does not have these kinds of values - the Vatican operates on a budget comparable to that of a medium-sized business in Australia. If we are faced with a money laundering operation, then we have to make sure that all crimes are exposed and corrected, ”he said, speaking to“ Crux ”.