VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis called for a Vatican that operates with “absolute transparency” as he gathered more than 165 cardinals in Rome for high-level meetings aimed at tackling one of the toughest challenges of his reformist papacy: overhauling the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the Roman Curia.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis began what could be a key week for his reformist papacy Feb. 9, starting with meetings with his hand-picked kitchen cabinet of nine senior cardinals who are developing plans to overhaul the Roman Curia, the papal civil service that has been plagued with crisis and dysfunction.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican City prosecutor has opened an investigation into possible embezzlement by two former top officials at the Institute for the Works of Religion, more commonly called the Vatican bank.

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VATICAN CITY - In what the Vatican bank described as recognition that it has established serious measures to prevent money laundering, it announced the Italian government has promised to return 23 million euros (U.S. $29 million) that had been blocked for more than three years.

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VATICAN CITY - As the restructuring of Vatican financial institutions moves into high gear, "our ambition is to become something of a model of financial management rather than a cause for occasional scandal," said Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

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VATICAN CITY - Preparing for big changes in its governance and structure, the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, published its 2013 financial statement, reporting a nose dive in net profit.

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VATICAN CITY - Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, was fired May 24 by the bank's board of supervisors, who censured him for neglecting his duties amid worsening management problems.

The board of the bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, issued an unusually blunt statement through the Vatican Press Office, noting that members had repeatedly expressed concern to Gotti Tedeschi about the bank's "governance," but that the "situation has deteriorated further."

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