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The Francis Era
Pope Appoints New Watchdog, But Will He Deliver?

Pope Francis is continuing his efforts to clean house at the Vatican by appointing Bishop Giorgio Corbellini as new head for the Financial Information Agency, an anti-corruption body launched by Pope Benedict XIV. Francis seems to be making the financial reform of the Vatican his top internal priority right now, acting decisively to expand and deepen Benedict’s reforms.

This change also has a broader significance for the reform and anti-reform movements in the Vatican. The previous head, Cardinal Attilio Nicora, may have been tainted by association with the graft at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, where he worked. Until 2011, on the other hand, Corbellini worked under Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in the Government of the Vatican City State. As John Allen Jr. points out, Viganò was a reformer and Corbellini was his ally:

Viganò also wrote letters to Pope Benedict XVI chronicling his struggles against various forms of what he described as corruption and cronyism, and in one, he asserted that his enemies were trying to force him out in order to short-circuit reforms. That correspondence became public as part of the Vatican leaks scandal

Corbellini was seen as a Viganò ally, and in a January 2012 broadcast on Italian television after Viganò was removed, Corbellini essentially backed his position.

Overall, the shift from Nicora to Corbellini is likely to be read as a move away from the Vatican’s “old guard” and toward a more aggressive reform posture.

If true, this could be a sign that Pope Francis is working to promote people that the anti-reform coalition tried to silence during the Benedict years. The difficulty is that nearly every faction in the Vatican claims to be, well, on the side of the angels. It’s almost impossible to tell from the outside who the real enemies of reform are.

Time will tell whether Pope Francis is getting it right this time, but the progress that has already been made at the bank gives some reasons to hope.

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