The Vatican is successfully modernizing its finances.

That was the message of Joseph F.X. Zahra, the Vatican’s new lay economist, who gave a luncheon presentation to Joseph M. McShane, SJ, president of Fordham, and to administrators and University trustees on Oct. 9 at the Rose Hill campus.

Zahra, former head of Malta’s Bank of Valletta and a former director of that nation’s central bank, spoke to 50 members of the University community at an invitation-only event focused on new developments at the Vatican curia.

Among other measures, the Vatican has established a Council for the Economy, a Secretariat for the Economy, and an Auditor General. These new agencies, one of which reports directly to the pope, will regularly conduct audits and apply international accounting standards to the Vatican’s financial operations, said Zahra.

Zahra was chosen in July 2013 by Pope Francis to oversee the revamping of the church’s finances, which had endured some “controversy and question marks surrounding their management.” That’s according to one sponsor of Zahra’s New York visit, the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, CAPP-USA, the U.S. affiliate of the Vatican Foundation for Lay Catholic Leaders.

Zahra visited Fordham during a three-day tour of New York, which was also co-sponsored by Fordham, Fairfield, and Notre Dame universities, said Henry Schwalbenberg, PhD, director of Fordham’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development and a member of the sponsoring CAPP-USA.

The reforms are “not an end in themselves,” according to Zahra, but are also a means to save money that could be used to fund programs for “the poor and the marginalized,” in accordance with Pope Francis’ mission for the church.

Zahra gave his presentation at Fairfield on Nov. 8 and was scheduled to deliver the talk at Notre Dame on Nov. 10.


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or