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Pope Francis’ Foundation Under Fire over Embezzlement Allegations

By: Raquel García - @venturaG79 - Jul 6, 2016, 4:48 pm
The President of Scholas Ocurrentes, associate of Pope Francis, José María del Corral, refuses the NGO knowing of the construction of a branch from Cristina Kirchner's government (El Liberal)
The president of Scholas Ocurrentes, José María del Corral, claimed he didn’t know the Argentinean government was financing the construction of its headquarters. (El Liberal)

EspañolScholas Ocurrentes, an education non-profit started by Pope Francis with presence in 190 countries, is in the public eye since Argentinean journalists revealed irregularities in its workings.

On July 3, Journalism for Everyone, a popular TV show of investigative journalism, pointed out irregularities in the construction of Scholas’ local branch in Argentina.

Argentinean journalist Jorge Lanata revealed that, during former President Cristina Kirchner‘s rule, the Planning Ministry financed the works to the tune of ARS$10 million (US$663,400).

However, the building, which should have been finished nine months ago, is only 40 percent complete and the expenses already exceed the budget.

The president of Scholas Ocurrentes, José María del Corral, said he was not aware of the building’s construction and claimed he was even asking the current Macri administration help to build one.

But the Sunday TV show aired images of a half-finished building with a sign clearly indicating the construction of Scholas Ocurrentes’ headquarters.

Furthermore, the former Planning Minister, Julio de Vido, had publicly announced the construction as part of the state program “Enamorar,” a AR$260 million (US$17.2 million) investment that also included other buildings and artistic and educational projects.

Kirchner Propaganda in the Vatican

Another irregularity allegedly took place last year, in the midst of the presidential campaign, when Scholas Ocurrentes invited the Planning minister to set up a recital in the Vatican.

The event cost Argentineans AR$5.6 million(US$377,540) and was paid through the public Argentinean universities San Martín and Tres de Febrero.

The journalists claimed that during the event, which marked the closing of Scholas’ Fourth World Congress, an ad boasting the Kirchner administration was shown.

Del Corral countered: “We didn’t ask for the recital, we simply let them use the place. It wasn’t the closing of the congress, just part of it. We don’t know how much it cost and we have nothing to do with it.”

Scholas also uses high-profile sports figures to promote its work. In 2013, the Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi and the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon inaugurated the first schools in an event at the Vatican.

In 2014, the first soccer match “for peace” to raised funds was held, and the organizers offered the largest donors two tickets to see the game and a private meeting with Pope Francis him.

Additionally, the Latin American company Servicios Móviles started a contest to collect money funds for Scholas, the top prize being a trip to Rome to meet the pope.

Del Corral denied authorizing either event organizer to auction a meeting with Pope Francis.

Damage Control

According to newsapaper Clarín, amid rumors of mismanagement at Scholas, the Pope ordered Argentinean bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, to oversee the foundation’s activities.

Francis also decided to suspend the Soccer Match for Peace scheduled for July 10 in the city of La Plata, Buenos Aires province.

Before suspending the game, Francis sent a letter to Scholas’ board, according to newspaper La Stampa. “I’m concerned that you are starting to slip into a path of corruption”, allegedly wrote the pope.

In early June, the Argentinean press reported that the pope had ordered Scholas Occurrentes to reject a US$1.2 million donation from the Macri administration.

“The Argentinean government has to cover too many needs of the people that you don’t have the right to ask for a single cent,” Pope Francis told Del Corral.

Source: Clarín, El Trece.

Raquel García Raquel García

Raquel García is a Venezuelan journalist with over 16 years of experience in digital outlets and radios. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Follow her @venturaG79.