UCA News

Vatican City

Vatican tight for money, not at risk of default

In the past four years, income and expenses have been constant, with expenses averaging 320 million euros

Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Updated: May 14, 2020 11:00 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Vatican tight for money, not at risk of default

This aerial photograph taken on May 1 shows St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican during Italy's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Filippino Monteforte/AFP)

Share this article :
Although the Vatican is facing difficult years ahead due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, its budget is not facing a massive default, said the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

In an interview with Vatican News published May 13, Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, the prefect, denied reports claiming that an internal analysis given to Pope Francis places the Vatican's annual deficit at risk of growing 175%.

"The Vatican is not in danger of default," Father Guerrero said. "That doesn't mean that we are not naming the crisis for what it is. We're certainly facing difficult years" ahead.

Italian newspaper Il Messaggero published May 10 what it claimed was an internal analysis given to the pope during a recent meeting with the heads of the Roman Curia. The documents highlighted scenarios from best to worst case should revenues continue to decline drastically.

The article also stated that the pope advised curial heads to be frugal, freeze the hiring of new employees, eliminate superfluous costs and to not make new trips or organize new conferences.

When asked about the pope's meeting, Father Guerrero said the Vatican is determined "to find a way to ensure our mission" and determine "what is and what is not essential." However, "our economy cannot be completely measured merely in terms of deficit or cost."

"We are not a business, we are not a company," he explained. "Our objective is not to make a profit. Every dicastery, every entity performs a service. Every service has associated costs. Our approach must be the maximum sobriety and the maximum clarity. Our bottom line is in view of mission."

Since the Church carries out its mission thanks to the offerings of the faithful, he said, the Vatican must "manage our finances with the passion and diligence of a good family man."

Nevertheless, "there are three things that are not in question, not even in this moment of crisis: employee salaries, aid for people in difficulty and support for the churches in need. No cut will affect those who are most vulnerable," he said.

The Church, Father Guerrero added, does not "live to balance budgets" and trusts "in the generosity of the faithful." However, the Church must also do its part to "show those who donate part of their savings to us that their money is well spent."

"There are many Catholics in the world who are willing to donate to help the Holy Father and the Holy See fulfill their mission," he said. "It is to them that we must make an accounting."

The head of the Secretariat for the Economy also noted that the Vatican's finances are comparably less than other countries and even "less than the average American university, for example. This, too, is a reality that is often ignored."

"Between 2016 and 2020," he said, "both income and expenses have been constant: revenue, in the region of 270 million [euros], expenses averaged around 320 million, depending on the year."

Regarding the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Vatican's finances, Father Guerrero said that "the most optimistic scenario calculates a 25 percent decrease in revenue" while "the most pessimistic [averages] around 45 percent."

A major source of revenue, he said, comes from the Vatican Museums, which, like every museum in Italy, "is closed now and will most likely remain in difficulty due to a slow recovery."

"We had already decided, when approving this year's budget, that expenses should be reduced in order to reduce the deficit," he said.

"Both the optimistic or pessimistic scenario depend partly on us — on how much we will be able to reduce costs — and partly on external factors, on how much the revenue will actually decrease; revenue does not depend on us," Father Guerrero said. "In any case, unless there is some extraordinary income, it is clear that the deficit will increase."

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."