Rev. Andrew Small, a British-born Oblate of the Mary Immaculate priest, CEO of Missio Corp. speaks during a press conference at The Vatican, Saturday, March 25, 2023. The Vatican is seeking clarity after the former director of its U.S. missionary

Pope warns of risk of corruption in missionary fundraising

By Nicole Winfield – Associated Press

Rev. Andrew Small, a British-born Oblate of the Mary Immaculate priest, CEO of Missio Corp. speaks during a press conference at The Vatican, Saturday, March 25, 2023. The Vatican is seeking clarity after the former director of its U.S. missionary

Pope Francis warned the Vatican’s missionary fundraisers on Saturday not to allow financial corruption to creep into their work, insisting that spirituality and spreading the Gospel must drive their operations, not mere entrepreneurship.

Francis made the comments in a speech to the national directors of the Vatican’s Pontifical Mission Societies, which raise money for the Catholic Church’s missionary work in the developing world, building churches and funding training programs for priests and nuns. Deviating from his prepared remarks, Francis appeared to refer to a recent Associated Press investigation into financial transfers at the U.S. branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies: The former head oversaw the transfer of at least $17 million from a quasi-endowment fund and donations into a nonprofit and private equity fund that he created and now heads. The intiatives provide low-interest loans to church-run agribusinesses in Africa.

“Please don’t reduce POM to money,” Francis said, referring to the Italian acronym of the Pontifical Mission Societies. “This is a medium, a means. Does it require money? Yes, but don’t reduce it, it is bigger than money.”

He said if spirituality isn’t driving the Catholic Church’s missionary efforts, there is a risk of corruption.

“Because if spirituality is lacking and it’s only a matter of entrepreneurship, corruption comes in immediately,” Francis said. “And we have seen that even today: In the newspapers, you see so many stories of alleged corruption in the name of the missionary nature of the church.”

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