Address of the Cardinal Secretary of State

Moneyval Programme of the Council of Europe

02 October 2020

The following is the English text of Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s address to the members of the Committee of Experts of the Evaluators of the Moneyval Programme of the Council of Europe, whom he met on Wednesday, 30 September, in the Vatican.

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,

Esteemed Members of the

Moneyval Evaluation Team,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When on 4 October 1965 Pope Paul VI addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, he introduced himself to those present in the following memorable words: “The one speaking to you is one like yourselves, your brother, and even one of the least among you, who represent sovereign States.  For he possesses — if you choose to consider us from this point of view — only a tiny and practically symbolic temporal sovereignty, the minimum needed to exercise freely his spiritual mission and to assure those who deal with him that he is independent of any sovereignty of this world.  He has no temporal power, no ambition to enter into competition with you.  As a matter of fact, we have nothing to ask, no question to raise; but rather a wish to express, a permission to seek: that of being allowed to serve you in the area of our competence, with disinterestedness, humility and love”.

 In these few sentences, the Pope described the special nature of Vatican City State, whose creation in 1929 ended the Roman Question that had arisen with the taking of Rome on 20 September 1870 by the Italians.  From the outside, Vatican City State, albeit tiny in size, can be likened to other States.  Yet it has a completely distinctive feature that must always be taken into account: it exists to serve the ministry of the Pope, ensuring the sovereignty of the Holy See and the freedom of the Roman Pontiff.  In this sense, it can be considered functional and instrumental to a supernatural end.

 Saint Paul VI, in that same address, went on to point out that the Holy See is the bearer “of a message for all humanity”.  He wished to speak for “the poor, the disinherited, the suffering, the unfortunate, and those who long for justice, a dignified life, liberty, prosperity and progress”.

 The voice of the Pope insistently calls for justice and peace, in opposition to everything that demeans the human person in his or her dignity and fundamental rights.  As Pope Francis has said, “When an economic system places only the god of money at the centre, policies of exclusion are triggered and there is no longer any place for men or for women.  The human being, then, creates that throwaway culture that leads to suffering, depriving so many of the right to live and to be happy” (Message for the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Populorum Progressio Foundation, 20 November 2017).

 From these references alone, it is evident that on the international scene, the Holy See is inspired by purposes different from those ordinarily pursued by other members of the community of nations, and also that from its need to pursue those purposes, the Holy See has a distinctive place within that same community.  In his address, Saint Paul VI referred to this distinctive place by pointing out that the presence of the Holy See within the United Nations is a means of proclaiming the Good News: “Here we are celebrating the epilogue to a laborious pilgrimage in search of an opportunity to speak heart to heart with the whole world.  It began on the day when we were commanded: ‘Go, bring the good news to all nations’” (Mk 16:15).

 Evidently, then, the Holy See’s position among the members of the international system is not based upon its “symbolic” territorial sovereignty, but rather on its ability to take actions and build relationships in the supranational domain that are in conformity with the evangelical mandate that determines its existence.  As Saint John Paul II said to the United Nations on the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation, the Holy See, in virtue of its spiritual mission, seeks to advance “the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty” (New York, 5 October 1995).

 If, on the one hand, this dimension, which we might term “prophetic”, enables the Holy See to be the voice of the voiceless, it also implies that the Holy See itself should be exemplary in the management of all things pertaining to the State, not least its economic and financial aspects.

 It is against this backdrop that we must understand the engagement of the Holy See and of Vatican City State in the field of finance and international cooperation in general, and in particular, its decision to take part in the process of evaluating the measures for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism adopted by the Moneyval Programme of the Council of Europe.

In the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the Vatican’s internal organization assigns a prominent role to the Financial Information Authority, which is responsible for oversight and regulation, and for financial information relative to that specific sector.  In addition, other subjects, under various titles and each in accordance with its respective role, have a part to play regarding policies countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  Recently too, nonprofit and volunteer organizations, as well as canonical and civil juridical persons registered in Vatican City State, have been directed to report to the AIF any suspicious activities of money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

As can be seen, systems are progressively being set in place to enable greater control of financial operations potentially exposed to the risk of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  In this regard, the interventions and recommendations of the Moneyval evaluators are a resource for which we are greatly appreciative.

It is clear, too, that, in the light of their distinctive features as mentioned above, the Holy See and Vatican City State cannot be treated in the same way as national States, who are not exposed to these risks in the same way.  Unlike other subjects participating in the Moneyval project, whose economies are aimed at creating wealth and prosperity for their respective national communities, the funds managed by the Holy See and the Vatican City State are chiefly directed to works of religions and charity.  Yet that does not detract from the fact that — in the ways proper to its internal system — they must apply every form of oversight compatible with their intended purposes. Indeed, precisely by virtue of the priority destination of funds, it is necessary that the ethical dimension of investments be an object of particular concern.

In November 2015, Pope Francis told the Board of Superintendence of the Institute for the Works of Religion: “the IOR cannot have as a primary operating principle that of the greatest possible profit, but rather principles compatible with the norms of morality, consistent efficiency and praxis that reflect its specific nature and exemplarity that should mark its operations”.  These operative principles, which should inspire not only the IOR but also every other agency of the Holy See, certainly include policies for countering money laundering and financing of terrorism.  This visit of the Moneyval evaluation team helps us to keep them in even clearer focus.

We are grateful for your presence and for the encouragement you give us to render a service that can help us devise a financial system increasingly at the service of men and women.  In conclusion, I would like to return to the aforementioned address of Saint Paul VI, in which he described himself as an “expert in humanity”: that humanity which we must consider in all our actions.  That humanity must be the yardstick of every policy, especially with regard to its economic and financial implications.  If profit should become the sole law governing every decision, a grave error of evaluation would be made, and we would embark on the path of a baneful dehumanization.  I thank you, then, for your work, which helps us to assess the potential for the common good of every choice we make on the economic and financial plane.