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Pandemic depleting Vatican funds, hitting reserves

pope francis holds weekly audience
Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in the Vatican

The Holy See, the central administrative body of the worldwide Catholic Church, may have to use 40 million euros in reserves for the second straight year as the COVID-19 pandemic burns through its finances, a Vatican official said on Friday.

Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, also said that a special discretionary fund to help Pope Francis run the Church and finance his charities was being dangerously depleted.

Guerrero spoke in an interview with the official VaticanNews website as details of the projected budget for the Holy See for this year were released. The key figure, a deficit of about 50 million euros ($59.77 million), was already released last month.

The Holy See budget covers entities in Rome that oversee the governing of the 1.3-billion-member worldwide Church, its diplomatic representations, and media operations.

Vatican City, including the Vatican Museums and the Vatican bank, has a separate budget, although income from both often are transferred to the Holy See to help plug deficits.

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the latter a cash cow that received about 6 million paying visitors in 2019, were closed or only partially open for much of 2020 because of the pandemic. They had been due to reopen next week but are no longer doing so because of a new lockdown by Italy.

Guerrero said reserves had gone down by about 40 million euros last year and they were expected to fall by the same amount this year. No total figures for existing reserves were given.

The Holy See’s income is from donations, real estate management and investments. Revenues were expected to be about 213 million in 2021, down 30 percent over 2020.

About half of the Holy See’s expenses is for personnel and the pope has insisted on cutting costs without cutting jobs.

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