Pope John Paul II on Tuesday ordered the creation of a watchdog panel for the scandal-linked Vatican bank as part of a series of administrative reforms.
Announcement of the reforms, long under study, was timed for Tuesday's elevation by the pope of 24 cardinals at the Vatican.An overhaul of Vatican administration, known as the Curia, was carried out in 1967 under John Paul's predecessor, Paul VI, who called for many streamlining reforms in the spirit of the modernizing Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.
In his written introduction to the 111-page document outlining the reforms, John Paul II describes them as approaching in "inspiration and intent" those generated by the work of the Second Council.
The Vatican administration "from time to time has grown to ever vaster dimensions," the pope wrote in the introduction to the new constitution, as the document was called.
Vatican observers described many of the changes as contained in the 193-article constitution as minor.
But among the more significant changes was an article dealing with the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works.
The bank, headed by American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, was involved in Italy's most sensational banking scandal, the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano.
The scandal centers on the disappearance of $1.3 billion lent by the Milan-based bank to 10 dummy overseas companies. Investigators allege Marcinkus wrote letters to financial officials assuring them the Vatican controlled the dummy companies.