The Vatican is projecting a coronavirus-related loss of up to 146 million euros, according to a media report.
– Up to 120 million euros in lost income: internal memo
Rome-based paper Il Messaggero reported May 10 that the Vatican deficit – currently calculated at 53 million euros in this year’s budget – could blow out to nearly triple that number depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 recession.
Il Messaggero cited an internal memo from the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy that revealed that officials are managing three scenarios for the impact of the coronavirus on the Holy See’s finances.
In the most optimistic of those panoramas, Vatican income – currently at 268 million euros, according to the Holy See 2020 budget – could fall between 30% and 50% (up to 68 million euros less), thereby producing a corresponding deficit increase of 28% (also 68 million euros).
In the intermediate scenario Vatican officials are managing, income could fall up to 60% (89 million euros less), a figure that even with the drop of 3% in expenditure and wages that prelates are contemplating would provoke an 83% increase in the Holy See’s deficit, to the tune of 97 million euros.
In the worst case scenario Holy See employees are forecasting, the Vatican could be facing up to 120 million euros in lost income – a reality that would send the deficit skyrocketing to 146 million euros.
– Fewer visitors to the Vatican museums, a drop in donations, lower rents…
The principal reason for the black hole in the Holy See’s finances is the closure during the pandemic of the Vatican Museums, as well as a projected drop in money received from the ‘Peter’s Pence’ collection, which even though it has been postponed from its traditional June to October this year is still not expected to bring much money into the Holy See’s coffers.
On top of that is the fact that the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, or APSA, have accepted lower rents from the tenants of properties they manage in Rome for the duration of the pandemic, and the fact that, as Coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy Cardinal Reinhard Marx explained in April, the Vatican “can’t get into debt or raise taxes as other States do” as ways of navigating the recession.
Complicating the Holy See’s financial position even further is its famously bloated workforce, with around 3,000 employees, and the Vatican’s need to pay tax and maintenance on its properties in Rome and on its embassies, or nunciatures, around the world.
– The Holy See’s answers: the centralisation of assets and the implementation of a procurement code
But what steps are Vatican officials taking to respond to the financial downturn?
According to Il Messaggero, the matter was high on the agenda last May 4 in Pope Francis’ meeting with the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
The Rome paper also reported that Holy See staffers have suggested to the Pope that he concentrate the funds of the various Vatican departments in the APSA, which already pays out the expenses and salaries of workers in those departments.
Other proposals on the table include the creation of a “single specialised service centre on which the financial resources of [Vatican] bodies converge”, in the words of the Vatican economy ‘ministry’ memo, and the implementation of a procurement code to regulate Holy See purchases and contracts.
The internal memo said that a draft of that procurement code was nearing completion, and promised that those new regulations would not only bring the Vatican into line with international standards for efficiency and cost-effectiveness, but would also “protect” the Holy See against “unhealthy management that expose us also from an image point of view”.
“Significant savings can also be achieved, but we must take into account that this initiative will have a certain impact on the operational dynamics of the entities” of the Holy See, the Vatican memo warned.