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Vatican economic reforms leader speaks in Montreal

by Matthew Shanahan November 17, 2015

Talk shed light on reality of the recent financial document leaks in the Vatican

Loyola High School in NDG hosted the president of a new Pontifical Commission focusing on Vatican economic reforms on Thursday.

Joseph F.X. Zahra of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See has been chartered to investigate current accounting practices among Vatican offices and bodies, as well as to help devise new strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency. The talk was sponsored by Loyola High School and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation—a non-profit organization which promotes Catholic social doctrine based in Vatican City.

Zahra is a Maltese economist who was hand-picked by Pope Francis in July 2013 when this particular pontifical commission was launched. Zahra’s talk, which lasted about 45 minutes followed by a question and answer period, was spent primarily highlighting what exactly these economic reforms are. He also discussed the goals of the commission going forward and when the commission expects to see results.

The general framework of these reforms as described by Zahra begins with a world-wide demand for transparency. “This need for transparency begets a need for responsible economic behaviour and sustainable use of resources,” he said. “You can’t use accounting principles that are 50 years outdated. This is done through the urgent task of reforming the market economy with the point of view of the Christian preferential choice for the poor.”

Zahra went on to say that the world needs to focus on creating an environment in which entrepreneurial initiatives can thrive. “The wrong education policies and inflexible labour rules can lead to persistent unemployment,” he said. “This requires a renewed understanding of labour and virtue in contrast to the two extremes of market individualism and state interventionism.”

Zahra also made it clear that these reforms will take time and that the eventual goal is to become a model for the world on economic issues. This change, he said, has to come from a culture change in the Vatican. Zahra insists that it will take a few years to come into effect, and hopefully become that role model that so many people have expected and waited for from the Catholic Church. This, said Zahra, is precisely why the recent financial document leaks at the Vatican are not scandalous on behalf of the Church but rather a breach of trust from those who leaked the documents.

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