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Vatican: Peter's Pence, donations, keeping projected deficit to $60 million in 2021

St Peters Basilica at the Vigil of Divine Mercy April 2 2016 Credit Alexey Gotovskiy CNA St. Peter's Basilica. / Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

The Vatican said Friday it plans to lower operational expenses by 8% in 2021, while it relies on donations and funds from Peter’s Pence to contain a growing deficit amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Secretariat for the Economy released a 2021 budget for the Holy See March 12, showing a projected deficit of nearly $60 million.

Peter’s Pence will provide the Holy See with $57 million in income, with $37 million being used for operational costs and $20 million for charitable grants.

Peter’s Pence is the Holy See’s annual collection to finance the pope’s charitable works and other priorities, including the Roman Curia.

Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., said Friday the Vatican was “exploring the opportunities” available to save money in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Guerrero noted that a lot was saved in 2020 when activities like travels were reduced and conferences and meetings were carried out over videoconferencing.

The expenses budgeted for 2021 are the lowest in the recent history of the Holy See, the economy chief said.

On the other hand, “if this situation goes on for too long we will not be able to contain the deficit except with the support of the faithful,” he said.

Using funds from Peter’s Pence for the expenses of the Roman Curia is “not a novelty,” Guerrero explained.

What is new is that for several years now, donations to the Holy See, including to Peter’s Pence, do not cover the Holy See’s total expenditures.

In 2019, Peter’s Pence provided a total of almost $78 million to the Holy See, covering 35% of expenses.

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Guerrero said Friday the Holy See’s reliance on Peter's Pence in recent years means the fund’s liquidity is running out.

With the current crisis, Guerrero said “it is very likely” that to cover costs in 2022, the Holy See will have to dip into the assets of the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees real estate holdings and other sovereign assets.

The 2021 budget was approved by Pope Francis in February; the major numbers of the budget were published at the time.

The budget projects a total revenue of $316 million and expenses of $376 million. For the first time, Peter's Pence and other dedicated funds are consolidated for greater “transparency and visibility of the sources and use of the Holy See’s resources,” it states.

The Holy See’s total income in 2021 is expected to be down by $112 million from 2019, the budget shows. Most of that difference, almost $100 million, is from self-generated revenue.

While external donations in 2021 are projected to be about $4.5 million under what they were in 2019.

Guerrero said they expect that “many of the revenue streams that have declined with the pandemic will be able to resume when the overall situation improves.”

The Vatican Museums, a major source of revenue for the Holy See, was seriously impacted in 2020 when it was closed to the public much of the year.

With diminished tourism, and a new closure starting March 15, that loss is projected to continue in 2021.

Despite the losses, Guerrero emphasized the Vatican’s commitment to continuing to pay employee salaries throughout the coronavirus crisis.

In the pandemic, APSA also gave discounts on rent for shops in Vatican-owned buildings.

In the 2021 budget, the Dicastery for Communication, which employs a large number of lay people, will spend a projected more than $51 million, and is the largest single expenditure for the Holy See, followed by supporting the apostolic nunciatures at $49 million.

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Earlier this month, the prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Paolo Ruffini, gave an interview to the Vatican newspaper in which he said the dicastery is open to receiving private donations “to reduce the use of the Holy See’s resources.”

In recent years, the Vatican News website has included a link to a donation page.

“The Holy See, let me insist on this, helps the mission of the Holy Father and is supported fundamentally thanks to the contribution of the faithful,” Guerrero said. “From one side, we can only be grateful for the generosity of the faithful in this very difficult year: in the midst of the difficulties of this time of pandemic they have continued to collaborate because they believe in the mission of the Church and want to support the Holy Father.”

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