In Rome, the cardinals will soon have to say goodbye to the preferential lodging rates they have enjoyed in the Eternal City. This was decreed by Pope Francis in a decision published in the middle of Lent, just to make people better accept the “exceptional sacrifice” demanded of the high prelates of the Curia.
The experience of the morning of March 1, 2023 was not as great as the night of August 4, 1789 [when feudalism was put to an end in the French Revolution]. It was however on this day that the information portal of the Holy See made public the will of the sovereign pontiff to abolish certain real estate privileges enjoyed by those who have hitherto been considered as the princes of the Church residing in Rome.
A decision taken - specifies the rescript - in order to face “the growing commitments” of the Church, “in an economic context, like that of today, of a particular gravity,” according to the text. And he calls on the high prelates concerned to make “an extraordinary sacrifice to allocate more resources to the mission of the Holy See.”
If the new legislation primarily concerns cardinals: prefects of dicastery or porporati retired in the Eternal City, it also affects the presidents, secretaries, undersecretaries, managers, and their equivalents, including auditors or equivalents of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
Also affected by this austerity measure are the prelates of the priestly residences managed by the Domus Vaticanae: that is to say St. Martha’s House, the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis known as “Traspontina,” the Domus Internationalis Paul VI, and the Casa San Benedetto.
The princes of the Church will now have to open their personal purses to find accommodation, because the Sovereign Pontiff also prohibits them from receiving any housing assistance from the Holy See, “of any amount or form whatsoever.” The entities owning the goods will therefore have to apply the ordinary cost to all. And any exception to the rule will have to be duly approved by the Pontiff.
Some high prelates may, however, benefit from a reprieve: as the law is not retroactive, contracts signed before the date of its entry into force will apply until their expiry, but their possible renewal will be subject to the new directives.
Francis's pontificate looks like a draconian regime for the twenty-two high prelates of the Roman Curia accustomed to the gold of the apostolic palaces, prelates who, at least in part, contributed to his election. In March 2021, their indemnity had been reduced by 10%, from €5,000 monthly to €4,500.
The Pope believes that he has set an example by choosing to leave the pontifical apartment – rather simple in fact, and very protected – chosen by St. Pius X, to reside in a 70 square meter dwelling in St. Martha’s House. However, at the cost of an important security set up, which is not free, far from it.