In the Vatican, Economic Improvement Won’t Come Soon

March 03, 2021

The Council for the Economy has just met against the backdrop of the crisis, at a time when the Vatican expects a net deficit of 80 million euros for 2021: a figure which should be reduced to 49.7 million euros , thanks to the contribution of Peter’s Pence and other dedicated funds.

Covid-19 requirements, the meeting of the Council for the Economy took place online on February 16, 2021, under the leadership of its president, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in the presence of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary State of the Holy See, and Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Created in 2014, this Council is responsible for overseeing the economic and financial management of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

A virtual meeting for a very real financial crisis: after a year of a chaotic health situation, the Vatican’s accounts are indeed in the red.

“These are difficult times for the Vatican, as for everyone else in the world,” a senior Vatican prelate confessed to AFP.

Indeed, in the wake of the surge of SARS-CoV-2, the Holy See has suffered a decline of around 21% of its revenues compared to 2019, which represents a loss of 48 million euros.

The closure of the Vatican Museums for several months—reopened on February 1—resulted in an 85% drop in revenue in 2020, a shortfall of around 100 million euros.

The annual Peter’s Pence collection for the year 2020 has, for its part, fallen by 25%: a consequence not only of the epidemic, but also of the financial scandals of an institution which collects the donations made to the Pope by the faithful being splashed around the world.

Not to mention the accompanying measures caused by the crisis, adopted in March and renewed until the end of 2020: 2.6 million euros in rent reductions and 2.9 million rent deferrals were thus granted. “We cannot rule out similar measures in the near future,” Msgr. Nunzio Galantino, president of the Patrimony Administration of the Apostolic See (Apsa), told AFP.

Measures to which should be added charitable actions aimed at the most underprivileged –notably Eastern Christians—as well as support for businesses with the drop in commercial rents.

The Roman Curia was the first victim of austerity, having had to resign itself to seeing its operating costs melt in 2020, while achieving 14% savings thanks to the cancellation of numerous conferences and trips.

But the Church is not a business, and certain expenses are essential: the Holy See plans for 2021 to spend 15% of its resources in the administration sector, in order to meet the needs of its 125 permanent diplomatic representations in particular, and to fund media working in 40 languages.

And this is without mentioning the numerous charities sponsored by the Vatican, which represent 68% of the total expenditure, and the maintenance of the immense religious, cultural, and historical heritage dependent on the Holy See (17% of the expenditure).