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Pope’s request for $25 million donation to scandal-hit hospital divides charity

Pope Francis (Getty Images)

A charity is deeply divided over a request from Pope Francis to give a large donation to a scandal-hit hospital.

LifeSiteNews claims to have obtained internal documents from the US-based Papal Foundation showing that last year Pope Francis personally requested, and obtained in part, a $25 million grant for a Church-owned dermatological hospital in Rome.

The request has provoked controversy because of the unusually large sum – the foundation normally awards grants of no more than $200,000 – and the hospital receiving the money has been plagued by allegations of corruption.

The Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI) is accused of money laundering, and has liabilities of more than $1 billion.

The Papal Foundation’s board is composed mainly of US bishops, including every American cardinal resident in the country. Internal documents indicate that the Pope made the request through Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington and the board’s chairman.

To become a “steward” of the charity, lay members must promise “to give $1 million over the course of no more than 10 years with a minimum donation of $100,000 per year”, according to the Papal Foundation’s website.

Despite opposition from some lay members, the board voted to send $8 million to the IDI in December 2017. Another $5 million was sent in January.

According to the leaked documents, on January 6, the chairman of the foundation’s audit committee resigned, writing: “As head of the audit committee and a Trustee of the Foundation, I found this grant to be negligent in character, flawed in its diligence, and contrary to the spirit of the Foundation.

“Instead of helping the poor in a third-world country, the Board approved an unprecedented huge grant to a hospital that has a history of mismanagement, criminal indictments and bankruptcy.

“Had we allowed such recklessness in our personal careers we would never have met the requirements to join the Papal Foundation in the first place.”

After several complaints, the foundation’s executive committee sent a letter to donating members, signed by Bishop Michael Bransfield, Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several others.

The letter regrets “the significant degree of discontent”, but adds: “If we do not have love in our hearts toward one another, we are like clanging gongs or clashing cymbals.”

The letter also says that Cardinal Wuerl “has written to the Secretary of State to request, given the circumstances surrounding this grant, that the Holy See decline to accept any further monies pursuant to the grant that was approved in December”.

A document on January 8 also said the money was part of Pope Francis’s attempt to fight corruption. Cardinal Wuerl wrote that the request was made “in the larger context of the Holy Father’s commitment to confront and eliminate corruption and financial mismanagement both within the Vatican itself and in outside projects with which it was involved or sponsored”.

The Papal Foundation has given grants to help popes support the poor since it first gift to Pope John Paul II in 1990. Its fund has grown to more than $215 million.

The charity said in a statement: “The grants to help those in need around the world and of significance to the Holy Father are reviewed and approved through well-accepted philanthropic processes by the Board and its committees.”