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Pope shakes up running of Vatican funds after London property scandal

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican, October 28, 2020. Vatican Media/?Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has stripped the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of control over its own funds, moving them to the supervision of its economic offices in an attempt to contain the fallout of a scandal over a luxury London property deal.

The Secretariat of State is the most important department in the Vatican administration, overseeing the Holy See’s diplomacy and general affairs inside the Vatican and has historically controlled its own funds, investments and real estate holdings.

An investigation into the London deal, which involved several middlemen, led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of its police chief and the exit of the former head of its Financial Information Authority.

In a letter released by the Vatican press office on Thursday, the pope said he was transferring all the assets to a Vatican department called APSA, which will manage them, while they will be overseen by the Secretariat for the Economy.

The Secretariat of State’s assets include an annual fund for the pope’s charities, which is known as Peter’s Pence.

In September, Francis fired Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was number two at the Secretariat when it purchased a building in London as an investment.

Becciu has denied any wrongdoing after the pope alleged embezzlement and nepotism.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alexander Smith