Pope Francis postpones Peter’s Pence collection amid pandemic’s economic downturn

Basilica di San Pietro3 St. Peter's Basilica. | Marco Mancini/CNA

Pope Francis has postponed this year's Peter's Pence collection until next fall as the Vatican confronts the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The collection, which traditionally takes place in churches across the world on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, has been moved to October 4, the feast of St. Francis.

On April 29, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni attributed the date change to "the current health emergency situation." The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt throughout the world, including at the Vatican.

The most recent published balance sheet published by Holy See in 2017 indicated that the Vatican Museums generated much of the income for Vatican City State.

The Vatican lost millions of dollars in revenue with the closure of the Vatican Museums for over seven weeks. The Vatican Museums generated around $87 million annually as of 2015, half of which was surplus revenue for Vatican City, according to the Economist.

The Vatican Museums should be able to reopen on May 18 under the Italian government's second phase of coronavirus restrictions. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin addressed the potential reopening of the Vatican Museums with restricted access and increased health measures in a meeting with the Roman curial officials on April 22.

Despite the losses, Vatican employees have maintained their salaries throughout the coronavirus crisis, and the Vatican Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) discounted the rent for shops in Vatican-owned buildings.

APSA manages Holy See real estate, administering 2,400 apartments and 600 offices and commercial premises. Significantly discounted rents have been negotiated with tenants, sources tell CNA.

An administrative letter circulated within Vatican City departments on April 8 and obtained by ACI Stampa called for a cut in expenses paid to consultancies and the "suspension, whenever possible, of  fixed-term contracts."

"The current health emergency COVID-19 is having serious repercussions on a global level and in the upcoming time it will have even more repercussions on the Holy See / Vatican City State financial situation," the letter said.

It placed a freeze on hiring, overtime pay, business trips, and the planned purchase of new furniture for Vatican offices, but underscored that the Vatican would continue to pay salaries and did not plan to fire anyone.

Fr. Augusto Zampini told the Associated Press on April 23 that the Holy See is losing income as a result of the lockdown, and said that some high-ranking Vatican officials had offered to take salary cuts.

Peter's Pence is the papal charitable fund supported by annual donation appeals in Catholic parishes around the world.

Projects funded by Peter's Pence included $500,000 to assist migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador stranded in Mexico and 100,000 Euros in aid after flooding in Iran, according to its website.

There has been no official data on the amount of the collection of Peter's Pence since 2013, according to ACI Stampa. The most recent available data indicates a 78 million dollar collection in 2012, 28% of which came from contributions of U.S. Catholics. The Wall Street Journal reported that Peter's Pence collection totaled 50 million euros in 2018.

Pope Francis said in a press conference on Nov. 26 that the management of Peter's Pence often includes investments, saying that this is more prudent use of resources than keeping them in a "drawer."

"Peter's Pence should be spent in one year, one year and a half, until the other collection arrives which is made world-wide. And this is good administration," he said, but added that the Church must be ethical in its use of funds," Pope Francis said.

More in Vatican

Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.