Pope names German industrialist as head of Vatican Bank

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday named Ernst von Freyberg, a German aristocrat and industrialist, as the new head of the Vatican Bank. The appointment, reduces Italian presence in an institution that is struggling to restore its credibility and meet international transparency norms.

According to the reverend Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, the hire was ''a sign of rigour, objectivity, competence and transparency that the Holy See is committed to giving'' the bank. The appointment follows the ouster of the previous president by the bank for poor performance. The bank had been under investigation by Italian prosecutors for over two years on charges related to money laundering, which the bank has denied.

Father Lombardi added the appointment had come after a committee of five cardinals that oversees the bank had used a Frankfurt-based headhunting firm to select von Freyberg, who has trained as a lawyer and is chairman of the Hamburg-based Blohm & Voss industrial group.

Von Freyberg is also a member of the over 900 year old Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a religious group engaged in  charitable works.

Three names were understood to have been put up to the Commission of Cardinals for the final choice.

According to Lombardi, the Holy Father had closely followed the entire selection process leading to the choice of the new president of the Supervisory Board of the IOR and he had expressed his full consent to the choice made by the Commission of Cardinals.