February 25, 2013

In one of his last efforts to clean up the image of the Vatican bank, Pope Benedict approved the hiring of the chairman of a German shipyard as the bank’s new president.

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.

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 sensibility.”