On October 1, 2020, the prefect of the secretariat for the economy, in an interview with the editorial director of the dicastery for communication, published the financial report of the Roman Curia for the year 2019. Particular emphasis is on financial transparency of the Church, at the time when a financial scandal tarnishing the secretariat of State, shakes the high walls of the Leonine city.
Occupying media coverage: a golden rule in the digital age, that is now common knowledge in the Vatican. Because it is urgent: after a disastrous week which saw the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, and the revelation of questionable financial transactions involving the Secretariat of State, the most powerful body in the Vatican, it was time to move on to another, more positive sequence.
On this October 1st the radiant weather was auspicious. In the Leonine enclosure, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy, commented on Andrea Tornielli’s microphone on the financial results of the Roman Curia for the year 2019.
The Jesuit at the head of the dicastery responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of the finances of the Holy See has presented his first accounting report to the press, accompanied by detailed documentation concerning each “ministry” of the Vatican: a first.
“Those who ask for transparency are right,” explains Fr. Guerrero, “the economy of the Holy See must be like a glass house.” A glass that remains fragile, however.
The figures of the consolidated balance sheet of the Roman Curia for 2019 are clearly improving: thus the deficit of the dicasteries amounts to eleven million euros, against seventy-five in 2018. But, warns the prefect for the economy, the 2020 figures, given the consequent collateral damage by the coronavirus, will probably not be good.
More specifically, the various departments under the Curia recorded a turnover of 307 million euros last year, with expenditures amounting to 318 million euros. “But the Curia is not the whole of the Vatican,” emphasizes the Jesuit, “if we add the budget of the Governorate of Vatican City, which includes the Museums and other activities such as the Gendarmerie, the Pharmacy, etc., the donations to Peter’s Pence, the Institute for Roman Works (IOR), the Pension Fund, the net worth amounts to 4 billion euros.
And when we ask him, “the Curia, how much does it cost?,” the prefect of the secretariat for the economy finds a certain pleasure in playing the transparency game. “We could divide the costs into three sectors: asset management, which represents 67 million euros, or 21% of costs, this includes 18 million euros in taxes, and 25 million euros spent on building maintenance. Services and administration absorb 14% of expenditure. Finally, mission expenses absorb 65% of expenses.”
Incidentally, Fr. Guerrero reveals a detail that might seem trivial, evoking “the novelty of the great collaboration between the various services of the Secretariat of State, APSA (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See), and of the Secretariat for the Economy.”
Beyond the words, the recent case involving the former deputy of the secretariat of state convinced Pope Francis to permanently remove all power from the latter over the finances of the Church, in short, transforming it into “a dicastery without a portfolio,” to use Paolo Rodari's expression in an article in the September 28 edition of La Repubblica.
And Fr. Guerroro concluded: “There are fewer errors when we work together, and when we act with competence, transparency, and trust among ourselves.” Coming from a Jesuit, this serves as a confession ...