Pope Benedict XVI has approved the appointment of a new president of the Vatican Bank.
Ernst von Freyberg, 54 and a shipyard chairman, 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 today in a six-month-long hiring process that included the help of an independent head-hunting agency.
In a statement today the Vatican said: “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.”
Von Freyberg is chairman of Blohm+Voss Group, a Hamburg-based shipbuilding company that focuses on engineering services, yachts and commercial vessels, and no longer owns its military naval division.
He 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 organises pilgrimages to Lourdes.
He is the founder and member of a foundation that supports an elementary school in Frankfurt and Catholic organisations in France, Germany and Austria, and provides student scholarships.
Fr Lombardi, press secretary to the Holy See, said the presidency “is not a full-time position” and von Freyberg will keep his other job. 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, Fr Lombardi said.
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.
The bank’s commission of cardinals and its lay board of supervisors were presented with about 40 potential candidates, Fr 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 yesterday and presented it to the board, which agreed that same morning, Father Lombardi said.
The Pope was informed about the chosen candidate and he gave his “consensus” today Fr Lombardi 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.”
“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 said.
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.
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.