The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Vatican questions $17 million transfer to impact investing fund

- By Nicole Winfield

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is seeking clarity after the former director of its U.S. missionary fundraisin­g office oversaw the transfer of at least $17 million of its endowment and donations into a new nonprofit and private equity fund that he created and currently manages, The Associated Press has learned.

The new management of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, which raises money for the Catholic Church in the developing world, has written off most of that money — the $10.2 million it invested in the private equity fund as a loss since “there is no timeline and no guarantee of investment return,” according to its latest financial statement.

The money was transferre­d from TPMS-US into a New York-based nonprofit, Missio Corp., and a private equity fund MISIF LLC created by the Rev. Andrew Small while he was the national director of TPMS-US. Both financial vehicles aim to raise capital to provide low-interest loans to and investment­s in church-run farming initiative­s in Africa. MISIF LLC is known as an impact investing fund because it seeks to do social good as well as provide a financial return

The bulk of the money was transferre­d to Small’s new initiative in 2021, right before Small ended his 10year tenure at TPMS-US. Small, a British-born Oblate of the Mary Immaculate priest, remains CEO

of Missio Corp., which manages MISIF, while now serving on a temporary basis as the No. 2 at the Vatican’s child protection advisory board.

In a series of emailed responses to AP, Small strongly defended the money transfers as fully

approved and in the best interest of the church and TPMS-US. He provided letters from grateful bishops and nuns in Africa who have benefitted from Missio Corp.’s low-interest loans, as well as letters from two Vatican cardinals expressing interest in his impact investing initiative­s. But the transfers have, at least temporaril­y, reduced the endowment fund of TPMS-US by a quarter and seemingly diverted money that was raised in the pope’s name away from Vatican-approved charities and projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The loss is thus the latest financial headache for the Holy See, which for decades has been beset by episodes of loss-making investment­s, opaque accounting methods, porous budgets and conflicts of interest that have undermined its financial reputation.

“The Holy See is aware of the situation and is currently looking into the details of the events,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told AP.

According to publicly available tax records and financial statements, the moneys transferre­d included $7 million in expense “reimbursem­ents,” undefined “contributi­ons” and “support,” from TPMS-US to Missio Corp. between 2019-2021, as well as a $10.2 million investment into MISIF, $7.5 million of which came out of a TPMS-US endowment fund. The transfers were all approved by the TPMS-US board, making any litigation to get it back implausibl­e.

But according to officials at TPMS-US, it remains unclear if the board was fully informed about the transfers and the Vatican’s view of the initiative­s, including concerns expressed by the thenprefec­t of the Vatican’s missionary office, Cardinal Fernando Filoni.

 ?? Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press ?? Pope Francis caresses a guide dog during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday.
Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press Pope Francis caresses a guide dog during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday.

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