Cardinal Thomas Collins
Cardinal Thomas Collins knows all about saving souls but with his appointment to the Vatican bank he'll be getting a crash course in savings of another kind.
The Toronto archbishop was one of four cardinals appointed by Pope Francis on Jan. 15 to a commission to oversee the running of the oft-maligned Vatican bank. A theologian and academic by training, Collins said the appointment came "completely out of the blue."
He received a call from the Canadian nuncio to "feel him out" about joining the bank's Commission of Cardinals, followed by a formal invitation from the secretary of state a couple weeks ago.
Already serving on two Vatican committees – the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Social Communication – Collins was given no indication why he was chosen to help right a Vatican institution that too often makes headlines for the wrong reasons.
Even though Collins has received few details about what is entailed in his new role, he readily accepted the invitation.
"I suspect it might be because I'm the bishop of a large diocese," said Collins, who has considerable experience sitting on boards that manage significant financial assets.
This doesn't mean he will be dressing in pinstripes.
For starters, the Vatican bank isn't really a bank at all. Formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), it exists to help manage the finances of the Vatican, religious orders, clergy, some dioceses and religious institutes.
"The Commission of Cardinals are not the hands-on people," Collins said.
"There are experts to do that. I think the role (of the cardinals) is oversight, to ensure the bank remains faithful to its mission, which is to facilitate the work of the Church, its missionary work."
Collins will be joined on the commission by Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn and Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril Castello. They replace four other cardinals, while French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran is the only serving member the pope asked to stay on.
They join an institution that has been trying to rebuild a reputation that has been marred for decades by reports of poor oversight and, occasionally, scandal. Initiatives have been ongoing since Pope John Paul II to reform the bank.
Under Pope Benedict efforts intensified to modernize procedures to combat money laundering and other misuses of the institute. Pope Francis has continued on the path of reform to promote financial transparency and greater vigilance.
"My knowledge (of the reforms) at this point is purely what I read in the newspaper," Collins said.
"My understanding from what I've read is that there are many different efforts under way to be sure that as an institute of finance it is exemplary – as the Church should always be in every area. They are working, I believe, to do that."
Collins said he doesn't believe his new responsibilities will mean a reduction in his other Vatican responsibilities.