Widening budget deficit at the Holy See

Pope Francis has ordered Vatican officials to close a widening budget deficit at the Holy See.

They have to stop poorly managed spending and investments from undermining the operations of the Catholic Church’s global headquarters.

The forthcoming financial statements will be the Vatican’s first to completely follow international public sector accounting standards.

The Holy See’s deficit doubled in 2018 to roughly €70 million ($76.7 million) on a €300 million budget.

Vatican officials say this reflects persistent inefficiencies and hits to investment income.

In a letter in May to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Francis asked him to “inform the respective [Vatican] heads about the gravity of the situation” and to find immediate remedies.

Marx has arranged with Vatican department chiefs to meet on 20 September to address the issue.

Some Vatican officials have complained for years that the Holy See is lax about controlling spending and income.

They instance cases of redundant jobs, wasteful procurement and a costly car fleet. Real-estate holdings around Rome are sometimes not maintained and rents not collected.

The Vatican also took a heavy loss last year on a loan to a Catholic hospital.

This outcome is a far cry from Francis’s hopes for financial reform at the Holy See.

Back in 2013 when he was elected, allegations of corruption were rife as were stories of waste and incompetence.

By 2014 Francis had established several new bodies to control finance and appointed Cardinal George Pell as the head of finance.

Pell and established interests at the Vatican clashed and Francis curtailed his role.

Since Pell’s return to Australia to answer sex abuse charges, the Vatican finance leader’s role has been vacant.

Also vacant is the job of auditor general.

Libero Milone, the only person the Vatican has ever appointed to the role, resigned in 2017 accusing powerful officials of obstructing him.

Some Vatican officials think a management vacuum contributes to the Holy See’s poorly planned spending.

“What the Holy Father is calling for is that we need an administration, that is the Holy See administration, to be self-sustainable,” says Joseph Zahra, the top layman on the Council for the Economy, which supervises Vatican finances.

Zahra says the 20 September meeting will address short-term measures to reduce the deficit and will raise these matters at Vatican officials’ awareness.

“Many of them don’t realize the situation the Vatican is in. They think that money is no problem.”


  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Image: Crux Now
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