Pope Francis has established that the auditor general of the Holy See will continue to carry out its tasks during a sede vacante.
A sede vacante is the period between the death or resignation of a pope and the election of his successor. According to Holy See law, during a sede vacante, “all heads of curial institutions and members cease from their office,” though secretaries “attend to the ordinary governance of curial institutions, taking care of ordinary business only.”
Francis ruled that the Office of the Auditor General, which does not have a secretary, may also continue its “ordinary administration” in the case of a vacant papal see.
The auditor general is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.
It was also responsible for precipitating the investigation into the Secretariat of State’s controversial investment in a London building — a purchase now at the heart of a major Vatican finance trial.
The IOR, commonly called the Vatican bank, first agreed to give a loan to the Secretariat of State for the mortgage on the London property. But the IOR suddenly changed course and made a report to the auditor general, who investigated.
The pronouncement was part of a May 24 rescript on the tasks of the Office of the Auditor General signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state. The rescript was issued following an April 24 meeting between Parolin and Pope Francis.
The pope said in light of the provisions of the Church’s apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, “the ordinary administration, in case of a vacant Apostolic See, would not be interrupted and that the function of control would continue to be exercised by the Office of the Auditor General under the supervision of the Cardinal Camerlengo.”
The camerlengo is responsible for overseeing the preparations for a papal conclave and managing the administration of the Holy See during the sede vacante.
Pope Francis has also decided to change part of an article in the statutes of the Office of Auditor General.
According to the rescript, after analyzing suspicious activity reports, the auditor general will no longer present them to a special commission of the councilor for general affairs of the Secretariat of State, the secretary prelate of the Council for the Economy, and the secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Instead, using the wording of Praedicate Evangelium in paragraph 2 of article 224, the auditor will present a report of the suspicious activity notifications to the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and if he deems it necessary, to the cardinal coordinator of the Council for the Economy.
This change means the Secretariat of State does not receive a report from the auditor on the suspicious activity notifications the office has received.
Suspicious activity reports that have been substantiated should continue to be transmitted to the proper judicial authorities, the rescript added.
The pope’s rescript on the function of the Office of Auditor General comes as a former Holy See auditor and his deputy sue the Secretariat of State for wrongful dismissal.
Libero Milone and Ferruccio Panicco filed the multimillion-dollar lawsuit in November 2022; after several roadblocks, the case has had court dates this year.
The two are seeking compensation for loss of earnings, damage to their reputations, and emotional suffering, which they claim they bore after being forced from their jobs in 2017.
Milone said soon after stepping down in the middle of his five-year mandate that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then second-in-command at the Secretariat of State, has been said to be responsible for the firing of Milone.
Becciu told Reuters in 2017 that Milone “went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.”
The cardinal has pointed to Pope Francis, claiming the pope told him he no longer had trust in Milone and wanted Becciu to tell the auditor he should resign.