VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's pension fund insisted Friday that it's in decent financial health, issuing its first ever public accounting to try to dispel what it called "alarmist information" about a shortfall circulating in the media.
The Vatican's financial czar, Cardinal George Pell, has raised concern about the fund's long-term health in recent newspaper interviews, saying it is sufficiently funded for the next 10-15 years but needs to be strengthened for future generations.
In a statement, the fund managers said there's "a substantial balance" between resources and commitments for current and future pensioners, with the fund 95 percent covered.
It said it had taken many steps already to address future commitments, including raising the retirement age and pension contributions, and that the fund was expected to top 500 million euros by the end of 2015 after having started out with the equivalent of 5 million euros in 1993.
Pell was tasked last year by Pope Francis to put the Vatican's finances in order after years of mismanagement, waste and scandal. Francis gave him broad powers, and Pell got widespread support for his reform efforts by cardinals who received a closed-door briefing from him last week, the Vatican spokesman said.
But questions have also swirled about the scope of his power amid resistance from the Vatican legal office to his proposals for sweeping oversight and management authority in the statutes for his Secretariat for the Economy.
He also raised eyebrows by boasting in an essay that he had "discovered" hundreds of millions of euros that were "tucked away" in sectional accounts that didn't appear on the Vatican's balance sheets.
In fact, the money was well known, and both Pell and the Vatican subsequently clarified that nothing illicit was going on: Much of the money was a reserve fund established by Pope Paul VI and held in the Secretariat of State to be used for extraordinary expenditures or shortfalls.
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