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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis gave his backing Monday to the scandal-tainted Vatican Bank, saying it can carry on if it presses ahead with efforts to bring its practices up to international standards.

To continue operating, the bank, which has been caught up in money laundering probes, it has to make itself more transparent and adopt international best practices.

Some observers had speculated the pope might pull the plug on the bank, also known as the Institute for Religious Works. Last year, Francis noted ‘‘St. Peter didn’t have a bank account.’’

On Monday, the Vatican said ‘‘the valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor.’’

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The bank’s executives will finalize plans to ensure the institute can fulfill its mission.

The bank’s spokesman, Max Hohenberg, said the pope’s decision ‘‘represents a powerful endorsement of our very mission and the hard work accomplished over the past 12 months.’’ Francis was elected pope in March 2013.

Hohenberg said the bank aims to ‘‘complete its client screening by the summer of this year, improve its integration with other Vatican City State structures and introduce other operational improvements.’’ The IOR, which isn’t open to the public, has been combing through its client list to reduce the possibility that it could serve as an off-shore haven for illicit revenues.

Associated Press