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Pope Replaces Financial Watchdog's Board

Pope Francis has replaced the Vatican's five-member financial watchdog with a new team from four countries.

Four experts from Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S. were named to the board of the Financial Information Authority. They are Juan Zarate, a former George W. Bush administration official who is now a professor at Harvard Law School; Marc Odendall, a Swiss expert who advises philanthropic organizations; Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, former managing director of Singapore's Monetary Authority; and Maria Bianca Farina, who heads two Italian insurance firms.

They replace the five Italians on the panel.

Reuters reports:

"All five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016 and were laymen associated with the Vatican's discredited financial old guard. Reformers inside the Vatican had been pushing for the pope, who already has taken a series of steps to clean up Vatican finances, to appoint professionals with an international background to work with Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF and who has been pushing for change. Vatican sources said Bruelhart, Liechtenstein's former top anti-money laundering expert, was chafing under the old board and wanted Francis to appoint global professionals like him."

And, The Boston Globe notes, "The pope's clean-up campaign comes amid fresh reminders of the financial scandals that have rocked the Vatican over the years, including charges that a former top official under Benedict XVI, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, used his influence to steer almost $20 million in Vatican bank loans to a film company run by a friend, funds that were eventually lost."

The move is the latest overhaul announced by Francis since he became pope in March 2013. Earlier this year, he announced a sweeping overhaul — the first in 25 years — of the Vatican's bureaucracy.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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