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Vatican economy czar: The popes mission is underfunded

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Catholic Churchs financial chief warned within an interview on Friday a very uncertain period lies ahead for the Vaticans financial health, even while he reported significant progress in reducing the churchs budget deficit.

The Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero, prefect of the Vaticans Secretariat for the Economy, said that Pope Francis reforms to the Vaticans financial and investment policies have contributed to the deficit reduction detailed in the 2021 financial record released Friday (Aug. 5).

The statement includes financial data for 92 entities of the Holy See but omits figures for the Institute for Religious Works, often called the Vatican Bank, and the Governorate of the Vatican City State, which covers its museums, the authorities along with other administrative offices.

Despite cuts to the church bureaucracy referred to as the Roman Curia, Guerrero said, expenditures continue steadily to grow while revenues dwindle.

There is absolutely no doubt that people cannot act only on expenses by reducing them, he said. There should come a time if they can’t be decreased further without compromising the mission, so we have been also focusing on methods to increase revenues.

In a nutshell, said the finance czar, The popes mission is underfunded.

The Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves in 2019. Photo by Robert Ballecer, courtesy of Society of Jesus

The Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero in 2019. Photo by Robert Ballecer, thanks to Society of Jesus

The Vaticans deficit, initially estimated to be 33 million euros, fell to slightly a lot more than 3 million euros this past year. Assets grew from 2.2 billion to 3.9 billion euros.

The road taken continues and deepens, said Guerrero within an interview with Vatican media published on Friday. Guerrero was appointed by Francis in January 2020 to spearhead his efforts to reform the Vaticans historically troubled finances.

The reduced amount of the deficit was mainly related to a good market trend and positive exchange rate between dollars and euros, the report stated. Lower revenues, because of lower donations and contributions, have already been compensated by expenses savings and accurate property management, it said.

Recently the Vatican has faced shrinking donations, and the COVID-19 pandemic diminished its resources. Meanwhile, financial scandals, most prominently one over a controversial London property purchase which has led to the trial of a high cardinal, have cost the institution millions and inhibited donations from Catholics worldwide, an organization whose numbers already are shrinking amid growing secularization.

The London property at the heart of the Vatican financial scandal. Image via Google Maps

The London property in the centre of the Vatican financial scandal. Image via Google Maps

Despite positive steps forward, Guerrero remarked that the Vaticans revenues depend heavily on market forces, so when the financial email address details are much less favorable, as in 2020, an operating deficit emerges.

The communications department remains probably the most expensive entity at the Vatican, costing a complete of 40 million euros, the report showed. Message diffusion was the principal expense of the Holy See (44 million euros), accompanied by supporting struggling local churches (38 million euros).

Guerrero explained that each year the Holy See must sell assets amounting to 2024 million euros to cover the expenses of the Curia.

While helping reduce corruption and spend less, the popes reforms also have added a pressure on the Vaticans finances. For example, he offered Francis order that the best appellate Vatican court, the Roman Rota, which grants annulments, stop charging for access, turning it from being self-financing to being in deficit.

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Struggling Catholic hospitals and an ailing pension fund also weigh heavily on the churchs finances.

Catholic healthcare is itself going right through a difficult amount of time in Italy, Guerrero said. Many Catholic-owned or managed hospitals have a problem with debt. As the pediatric hospital Bambino Ges is economically healthy, Guerrero said, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza happens to be in an overall economy.

Concerning the Vatican pension fund, Guerrero admitted that there surely is no doubt we have been promising a lot more than we are able to actually afford. He added that since there is still time and energy to introduce corrective measures, we should take action soon.

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