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The Pope’s financial advisor, Peter Sutherland, dies aged 71

By Cian Molloy - 08 January, 2018

“He was a man of deep faith and a devoted Catholic but also one who was critical when necessary” - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Peter Sutherland

The death has occurred of Peter Sutherland, the former Irish Attorney General, who went on to become a leading international businessman and a special financial advisor to Pope Francis.

Among those who expressed their sympathy to Mr Sutherland’s wife, Maruja, and his family was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who noted that the Dublin-born barrister had been an advisor to the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and was also President of the International Catholic Committee of Migration, which is based in Geneva.

The 71-year-old was generous in giving financial support and expert advice to many national and international Church institutions, said Dr Martin. “He was a man of deep faith and a devoted Catholic, but also one who was critical when necessary.  He worked to ensure greater transparency in the administration of the Vatican’s financial system.”

Educated at Gonzaga College and at UCD, Peter Sutherland first came to widespread public prominence in the 1980s, when he twice served as Attorney General to Fine Gael-Labour coalition governments headed by Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald. He went on from there to become a European Commissioner for Competition serving for five years from 1985, which left him well placed to become Director General of GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is now known as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  An American trade minister described Sutherland as ‘the father of globalisation’ and that without him there would be no WTO today.

In tandem with these ‘super-political’ appointments, he was chairman of Allied Irish Banks (now AIB Bank), non-executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, non executive Chairman of the oil company BP, and a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

He also held dozens of major appointments that involved advising governments across the world. He reported to the Portuguese on how the colony of Macau should be handed back to the Chinese, he was Chairman of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain, and was Vice-Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists. For the United Nations he was a goodwill ambassador for their Industrial Development Organisation and was Honorary President of the Brussels-based European Policy Centre.

In his statement, Archbishop Martin noted one appointment in particular made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2006. “Peter Sutherland was tireless in carrying out his mission as Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Migration, even in a period when his health was failing,” he said.  “The quality, the passion, and the commitment of his work for refugees and migrants was fruit of a genuine conviction of his faith, reflecting the dignity of every human person and the fundamental unity of the human family.”

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