Key figure in Vatican's financial reform resigns without explanation

Key figure in Vatican’s financial reform resigns without explanation

Key figure in Vatican’s financial reform resigns without explanation

Italian businessman and auditing expert Libero Milone resigned from the position of the Vatican's Auditor General on June 20. (Credit: AP.)

When Italian businessman and auditing expert Libero Milone was hired in 2015 as the Vatican's new Auditor General, it has hailed as a major step forward for reform. On Tuesday the Vatican announced Milone's sudden resignation from the post without offering any explanation, which seems destined to raise questions about the future of Pope Francis's financial overhaul.

ROME – In a surprising twist to Pope Francis’s project of financial reform, the Vatican announced Tuesday that Libero Milone, an Italian financier and expert in accounting who had been hired in June 2015 with great fanfare for the new post of Auditor General, has resigned effective immediately and will have no further Vatican role.

The terse, four-line statement issued Tuesday offers no explanation for the move, which is likely to invite suspicion about what the motives for Milone’s sudden departure may have been.

“It’s noted that Doctor Libero Milone yesterday presented his resignation to the Holy Father from the position of Auditor General,” the statement says. “The Holy Father accepted it. Thus concludes, by common agreement, the relationship of collaboration with the Holy See.

“While it wishes Doctor Milone every good for his future activity, the Holy See informs that, as soon as possible, a process will be activated to nominate a new director for the Office of Auditor General.”

Milone, 67, had served as the Italian delegate for Deloitte, an international auditing and tax services firm prior to his Vatican appointment. Though Italian, he was born in Holland and had worked in both Great Britain and the United States over the course of his career, including stints for such major global firms as Fiat and Wind.

At the time of his appointment, Vatican officials stressed the importance of Milone’s role, describing the Auditor General as “completely independent,” reporting only to the pope, and able to compel any Vatican entity to open its books in order to verify how its money is being spent.

At least at the level of external impressions, the idea that Milone might be a threat to vested interests in the Vatican appeared bolstered shortly after his hiring, when news broke that someone had broken into his personal computer located in his office on Rome’s Via della Conciliazione, just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square.

Milone also earned credit in the public eye in April of this year, when reports suggested he had declined an offer to become part of the Board of Directors of the Italian public broadcasting service Rai, saying that he wanted to preserve his “freedom of movement” to perform his Vatican duties.

Such was the importance attached to Milone’s office that when the Vatican decided in April 2016 to cancel a contract with the global firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for an external audit, the reason given was that with the arrival of Milone and the creation of the Auditor’s General position, the task would be better handled in-house.

As a result, Milone’s departure seems destined to raise questions not merely about what the motives were for his sudden departure, but also the broader direction of the reform effort under Pope Francis.

Already, the perception had been that many of the new powers initially acquired by the Secretariat for the Economy under Pope Francis have been trimmed back, and that in some ways the financial management of the Vatican today is returning to the situation prior to his election.

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