The Vatican Incurring an Increased Deficit?

July 30, 2020
Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.

The deficit of the Holy See, estimated between 50 and 70 million euros, is not the result of poor administration, assured Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See, on May 13, 2020 in Vatican News.

It is explained by the loss of 45% of annual revenue linked to Covid-19. Between 2016 and 2020, the gap between Vatican spending and revenue was constant, he continued, and each year there are 270 million euros in revenue for around 320 million euros in spending.

The Vatican’s revenue, Fr. Guerrero specifies, comes from contributions and donations, real estate rents and, to a lesser extent, financial management and the activities of organizations. A significant part of the contributions is provided by the Governorate of Vatican City State; and this depends mainly on museums. As for expenses, they are around 45% for staff, 45% for general and administrative costs and 7.5% for donations.

The Peter’s Pence, gifts from the faithful, finances the mission of the Holy See, which includes the charitable works of the Pope. Communication from the Holy See in 36 languages ​​represents 15% of the budget. The nunciatures receive 10%, the Eastern Churches 10%, and 8.5% go to the mission of the Church through the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and the Preservation of the Vatican Library are also recipients. Finally, Fr. Guerrero specifies that Italian taxes represent about 6% of the budget, or 17 million euros per year.

Austerity Policy

The consequences of the Covid-19 confinement on Vatican finances would amount to, according to the most optimistic, 25% less revenue, or around 45% according to the most pessimistic. The difference is explained by the still unknown amount of Peter’s Pence, the contribution of the dioceses, and the decrease in overall revenue. As an indication, the annual quest for the Peter’s Pence, scheduled for June 29 and postponed to October 4, represented a contribution of 71 million euros in 2013, the last year in which the amount was made public.

But the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See is want to assure everyone that the Vatican does not risk bankruptcy, as some have announced. “Many Catholics around the world are ready to make donations to help the Holy Father and the Holy See accomplish their mission. It is to them that we are accountable. And it is to them that we can turn.” The Spanish Jesuit emphasizes that the Holy See has no “monetary policy lever” and can only count, in the face of the crisis, on the generosity of the faithful, on small holdings and on the capacity to reduce expenses. “We have asked each organization to do everything possible to reduce expenses, while preserving the core of their respective missions,” he explained. On May 4, Pope Francis chaired a meeting bringing together all the heads of dicasteries and dependent bodies of the Holy See and Vatican City to address the financial problems posed by these losses to the small state and the Apostolic See, I. Media learned from a source close to the Vatican.

In an administrative circular published on April 17 and sent to all departments, the following measures are planned: the cancellation of all business trips, the suppression of all events organized in 2020 requiring travel, the freezing of promotions and hiring, the suspension of fixed-term contracts, and a drastic cut in spending on advice and consultations. As Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, in charge of organizing WYD, noted, the Vatican advocated “waiting a year before starting these international events.” Without a clear perspective, “it is unrealistic to think that people will be able to travel in the next two years,” he added.

Fr. Guerrero would like the Vatican accounts to be published as early as this year, “so that we can clearly explain how we spend the money.”