Vatican braces for 2022 deficit as donations plummet following financial scandal
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Donations to the Holy See are expected to continue to fall following financial scandals currently at the heart of a high-profile Vatican lawsuit. The institution is tackling a projected deficit of $37 million, according to its 2022 budget projection released Friday, January 28.
The Vatican expects to have an income of $857.1 million and an expenditure of $894 million in 2022. Efforts to cut costs in the department and offices that make up the Roman Curia have led to a reduction in its expenses of approximately $4.5 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the institution’s finances, which largely depend on foreign tourists visiting the Vatican Museums. But the financial scandals surrounding the purchase of an expensive London property using a charity fund known as Peter’s Pence have undermined the Vatican’s credibility and cost it millions of dollars. .
Buying property in London is at the center of the ongoing Vatican trial of 10 people, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who are accused of, among other things, abuse of power, corruption and money laundering.
The Vatican will publish a report on Peter’s Pence in the coming months, but donations are expected to be down 15% in 2021, said Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, in an interview with Vatican Media published alongside the 2022 budget.
Donations to Peter’s Pence in 2021 dwindled to just over $41 million, following a downward trend that dates back to before the onslaught of the pandemic.
While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on giving due to reduced Mass attendance, Guerrero acknowledged that the real issue is restoring the church’s reputation among congregants by increasing transparency and adopting modern accounting regulations.
“We are well aware that we have made major errors in financial management, which have undermined the credibility of the Holy See,” Guerrero said. “We are looking to learn from them and we believe we have remedied them so that they do not happen again.”
Guerrero also said the Vatican had signed a contract with a buyer for the controversial London property. “The loss from the alleged scam,” Guerrero said, “has already been taken into account in the balance sheet.”
Other measures include the enactment of Pope Francis‘ new laws requiring greater fairness and transparency in the institution and the reduction of spending by Vatican departments. “Obviously there is a limit to the reduction – the mission has to be accomplished,” Guerrero said.
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In 2019, Pope Francis enacted a law for the purchase of goods and services by Vatican entities which, while increasing transparency, also added to the time and bureaucracy of these operations.
“We’re probably too weighed down by a few mistakes from the past that damaged our credibility as a church,” Guerrero said, adding that “unnecessary excess bureaucracy” is probably born out of “fear of falling into lack “. responsibility that led to these errors.
This year’s budget projection increased the number of entities included in its calculations from 60 to 90, adding other institutions, such as hospitals like the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, and papal basilicas and shrines. Therefore, the overall expenditures actually increased by about $11 million.
The decision by the Vatican Council for the Economy to include these new entities in the budget “is because these new parameters allow a more comprehensive view of the economic situation of the Holy See,” Guerrero said.
Despite the institution’s financial difficulties, the Vatican has found a silver lining. “We learned a lot from each other and we found a method of teamwork that was not widely practiced in the Holy See,” Guerrero said, recalling the ingrained practice of Vatican departments to jealously protect their own areas of influence and competence.
“Slowly, the culture is changing. We are working in the right direction,” he added.
The Vatican is also working to find other solutions to restore its troubled finances, including better management of the institution’s real estate assets and centralization of its financial investments, Guerrero said. But fixing the internal efficiency of the Vatican will not be enough, he added.
“We also need to look at ways to attract more donations. The first requirement is transparency and clear accountability, and I think we have taken many steps in that direction,” he said.
Guerrero said local churches around the world will also have to contribute to help the Roman curia, which supports and manages charitable activities and papal ambassadors. The planned budget for 2022 shows that most of the Vatican’s resources are used to support struggling churches (21%), promote the Vatican’s mission and message (16%), preserve its global presence (16%), support the evangelistic efforts (16%) and carrying out charitable works (9%).
The Vatican must “seek the help of the faithful, who want to support the pope in his mission of unity in charity, which is, after all, what the Roman curia does,” Guerrero said, adding that the publication of these reports might appease Catholic donors who can now see how their money is being spent.
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