Pope Francis launches investigation into alleged misuse of funds by directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir
Pope Francis has launched an investigation into alleged financial irregularities involving the 550-year-old Sistine Chapel Choir. Two directors of the choir are accused of using proceeds from concerts for their own personal ends, according to Italian media reports.
The Holy See released a statement in which it confirmed that the Pope had authorised an inquiry some months ago “into some economic-financial aspects” of the choir.
It gave no further details of the alleged misuse of funds but said the inquiry, by Vatican magistrates, was ongoing.
The choir, made up of young boys and adult men, was established in 1471 and is believed to be the world’s oldest.
It consists of 20 adults – six first tenors, five second tenors, four first basses and five second basses – and around 30 boy sopranos and contraltos.
Choristers sing at all papal masses and also travel the world performing concerts.
La Stampa, the Italian newspaper that broke the story on Thursday, said the choir’s director and head of administration diverted earnings from concerts into a private bank account and used the cash to pay for personal expenses.
The head of administration is a layman while the director is a Salesian priest.
In 2015 the choir released a CD through the label Deutsche Grammophon, the first recording ever allowed to be made in the Sistine Chapel.
In May, the choir performed at the gala opening of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," a celebration of the fashion world’s engagement with the devotional traditions of the Catholic Church.
Renowned for its Michelangelo frescoes, the Sistine Chapel was built between 1473 and 1481 for Pope Sixtus IV.
It also boasts frescoes by Renaissance masters Botticelli, Perugino and Pinturicchio.
When popes die, or resign as in the rare case of Benedict XVI, the chapel is closed to the outside world and becomes the setting for a conclave, the secret election of a new pontiff.
Hours after the Vatican confirmed the Sistine choir inquiry, it was mired in another scandal after Pope Francis ordered an investigation into an American bishop who has been accused of sexual abuse and harassment.
At the same time, the Pope accepted the resignation of the bishop, Michael Bransfield, from West Virginia.
The move came as Francis met with a delegation of US bishops to discuss the burgeoning sex abuse scandal within the Church, including allegations that he himself ignored allegations against American cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in nearly a century after Church officials said allegations that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.
The allegations that Francis knew about the abuse and did nothing about it were made last month by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, who called on the Pope to resign.
In Germany, meanwhile, a leaked report found that more than 3,600 children were assaulted by nearly 1,700 Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014.
The report was commissioned by the Church in Germany and was due to have been published later this month but was leaked by the German media.
Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger. The Catholic Church said it was "dismayed and ashamed" by the findings.