VATICAN CITY -- In one of his last efforts to clean up the
image of the Vatican bank, Pope Benedict XVI approved the
hiring of the chairman of a German shipyard as the bank's new
Ernst von Freyberg, 54, fills a nine-month-long vacancy at
the helm of the bank after its former president, Ettore Gotti
Tedeschi, was ousted in May for incompetence.
The commission of cardinals for the Vatican bank, formally
called the Institute for the Works of Religion, announced the
appointment Feb. 15 in a six-month-long hiring process that
included the help of an independent head-hunting agency.
"The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection
process ... and he has expressed his full consent to the
choice made by the commission of cardinals," the Vatican said
in a written statement.
Von Freyberg is chairman of Blohm+Voss Group, a Hamburg-based
shipbuilding company that builds and repairs yachts and ocean
liners and is part of a consortium that builds warships for
the German navy.
Responding to journalists' inquiries about whether the
company's activities conflicted with Catholic values, Jesuit
Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said working in
the shipbuilding industry does not disqualify a competent
candidate, especially when the businessman is heavily
involved with charity and "has a notable human, Christian
Von Freyberg is an active member of the Knights of Malta, a
lay Catholic religious order and a worldwide humanitarian
network offering free medical care and other services. He is
also a co-leader of an association for the Archdiocese of
Berlin that organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes.
He is the founder and member of a foundation that supports an
elementary school in Frankfurt and Catholic organizations in
France, Germany and Austria, and provides student
The German lawyer worked at the New-York-based investment
company Three Cities Research from 1988 to 1991 and was the
founder and CEO of Daiwa Corporate Advisory, a European-based
corporate finance consultancy firm, until 2012.
He is a member of the supervisory boards of Flossbach &
von Storch, a German financial management company, and a
member of the advisory board of the temporary work agency,
Manpower, in Germany. However, he will step down from these
positions in the coming weeks, Father Lombardi said.
He said the presidency "is not a full-time position," but von
Freyberg "will work exclusively for the IOR" and remain
chairman of Blohm+Voss.
The bank's president is not involved in the day-to-day
operations of the bank and is usually present "in situ" only
three days a week, Father Lombardi said.
The bank's commission of cardinals and its lay board of
supervisors were presented with about 40 potential
candidates, Father Lombardi said.
The choices were eventually narrowed down to six candidates
who had face-to-face interviews with the board, which then
picked three candidates who had follow-up interviews with the
commission of cardinals.
The commission made its final decision Feb. 14 and presented
it to the board, which agreed that same morning, Father
The pope was informed about the chosen candidate and he gave
his "consensus" Feb. 15, the spokesman said, adding that the
pope "was familiar with the von Freyberg family."
The position of Vatican bank president, however, "is not a
papal appointment, but is appointed by the commission of
cardinals," the spokesman said.
"This painstaking and detailed process lasted for some
months, making it possible to assess a number of candidates
of professional and moral excellence, with assistance from an
independent international agency that is a leader in the
selection of top executives," the written Vatican statement
The bank's cardinal commission, whose president is Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, is made up of Cardinals Attilio Nicora and
Jean-Louis Tauran, both at the Vatican, and Telesphore Toppo
of Ranchi, India, and Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo. The
board of supervisors includes Carl A. Anderson, head of the
U.S.-based Knights of Columbus, and three other laymen.
Anderson praised the selection of von Freyberg, saying he
"was an excellent choice for this job. His resume is
impressive as are his many years of service to the charitable
initiatives of the church."
"As president, he will contribute significantly to the IOR's
ongoing work of modernization and transparency," and with him
"the leadership of the IOR will be in very good hands," he
told Catholic News Service in an email.
The Vatican bank has been working to revamp a marred image of
secrecy and scandal with greater transparency.
Pope Benedict started implementing changes in 2010 to better
monitor all of the Vatican's financial operations and make
sure they reflect the latest European Union regulations and
other international norms against money-laundering and the
financing of terrorism.