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Banking

German financier to head Vatican's bank

Outgoing Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a German lawyer and financial expert to head the Vatican's bank. The new chief is called upon to help clean up the bank's tainted reputation.

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday signed off on what's considered to be one of the last major appointments in his papacy, approving German lawyer and financial expert Ernst von Freyberg to head the Vatican's bank.

The Pope hastened to make it clear that von Freyberg was not a personal friend of his. The German financier was chosen by the bank's commission of cardinals, with the Pope expressing his "full consent."

The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), as the bank is officially called, saw its former chief, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, ousted for incompetence in May of last year as survey had shown the bank had not reached the standards required to effectively combat money laundering, tax evasion or the financing of terrorism.

More banking transparency

With Ernst von Freyburg at the helm, the Vatican said it hoped for a revived push to clean up the IOR's tainted reputation in international financial circles.

The German was reported as having solid financial and Catholic credentials as a former investment banker and member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an ancient chivalrous order drawn from European nobility.

Von Freyburg is currently the chairman of a Hamburg-based ship component group, Blohm+Voss.

hg/kms (Reuters, AP)