Did COVID-19 get the better of the Vatican’s largesse? In recent weeks, several episcopal conferences in Latin America have expressed concern that local nuncios have announced a significant reduction in financial aid for mission countries from the Vatican. It is up to the non-missionary dioceses to make up the difference.
It should be remembered that the dioceses, the apostolic vicariates and the prelatures which are located in the poorest regions of the world, are considered by the Vatican as mission territories, even if Catholicism there is often today much more alive than in the old lands of Christendom.
As such, they come directly under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples—or Propaganda Fide—unlike other dioceses, whose affairs are the concern of the first section of the Secretariat of State.
Thus, according to 2016 statistics, Propaganda Fide has jurisdiction over 186 archdioceses, 785 dioceses, 82 apostolic vicariates, 39 apostolic prefectures, 4 apostolic administrations, 6 sui juris missions, 1 territorial abbey, and 6 military ordinariates.
The Congregation traditionally supports these legal entities through the Universal Solidarity Fund of Pontifical Mission Societies. The main source of funding for this fund comes from the World Mission Day collection, which is collected each year on the penultimate Sunday of October. In 2019, 106 million euros were collected in this way.
But the global economic shock born of COVID-19, significantly reduced donations, as confirmed at the beginning of January 2021 by the assistant secretary of Propaganda Fide, who is also at the head of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
For Msgr. Giampetro Dal Toso, it is not a question of suppressing aid from the Holy See, but rather of ensuring “a better distribution of money, by following the criteria of management,” which means that “where we have mission dioceses capable of living on their own income, these could renounce the share granted by Rome, and thus give the possibility to other poorer dioceses to obtain more,” explains the prelate.
Financial support to each territory dependent on Propaganda Fide varies depending on factors such as the poverty of the region, the hard currency exchange rate, and specific needs.
The average annual support for a mission diocese is estimated at a little over 16,000 euros, to which must be added nearly 400 euros per month granted to each seminarian.