Don't Mess With the Pope When It Comes to Money

Pontiff's business savvy is shining through as he tries to address Vatican's finances
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2014 12:33 PM CDT
Don't Mess With the Pope When It Comes to Money
Pope Francis celebrates a mass in Caserta, Italy, Saturday, July 26, 2014.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

It's obvious by now that Pope Francis is a practical guy who's trying to keep up with modern society, help the poor, and make inroads with issues that have plagued the church, all while humbly shrugging off his rep as a rock star among religious leaders. Based on an extensive article in Fortune, it also appears Jorge Bergoglio is pretty good in the boardroom, too. Highlights from the article that show Francis' business savvy include:

  • He's not there to schmooze anyone: In his first meeting in 2013 with finance experts tasked with helping remedy the Vatican's money issues, the pope set up a no-nonsense meeting in an unadorned conference room instead of the more ostentatious palace where popes traditionally meet with visitors. A participant called his meeting persona, which started with little small talk, as "highly managerial."
  • He knows what he wants and how to ask for it: Francis seemed hyperfocused at that get-together on the Vatican's "unpredictable budgets" and "fat" administration that were keeping him from his main goal of helping the underprivileged. "You are the experts, and I trust you," the pope reportedly said. "Now I want solutions to these problems, and I want them as soon as possible." The panel's chair tells Fortune that "in finances, he's not a micromanager but an inspirational leader."
  • He cleans house: The pontiff, who apparently doesn't think money matters are the clergy's forte, according to the magazine, turned out the "old guard of cardinals and bishops" who went over the books when he took over and started replacing them with expert outsiders—including KPMG and Deloitte & Touche— who actually handle or analyze financial matters for a living.
  • He appoints people who know their stuff: The guy he selected to be his right-hand man in the finance arena is Australian Cardinal George Pell, who tells the Sydney Morning Herald that in his new role as "God's banker," he's implementing practical practices like independent audits and streamlining budgets that they "[hope will return] … a whole lot of authority to the different congregations and councils."
  • He doesn't like special treatment or catering to bigwigs: When he was a cardinal in Argentina, Francis wouldn't go to fundraising dinners and dumped all of the archdiocese's bank holdings because he thought investor loans were extended to the archdiocese under "easy terms," which he deemed a "blatant conflict of interest."
  • He stays on top of things: "He has five or six sources of information on every subject," says the author of a forthcoming biography on the pontiff. “It's impossible to hoodwink him."
Click for the entire article. (More Pope Francis stories.)

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