Economy prefect says Vatican must be ‘a house of glass’ as 2019 figures released

Fr Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves Credit Office of Communication Society of Jesus Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J. | Office of Communication Society of Jesus.

The Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy released the 2019 balance sheet for the Roman Curia Thursday.

Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., the department's prefect, told Vatican News Oct. 1 "the economy of the Holy See should be a house of glass."

"We want the budget to explain how the Holy See uses its resources to carry out its mission," he said.

The report comes a week after the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu from the Roman Curia, which followed more than a year of reporting by CNA and other news outlets on various financial scandals involving Becciu and the Holy See's Secretariat of State.

Guerrero told Vatican News he "reads the newspapers" and that "it is possible that, in some cases, the Holy See was not only badly advised but also cheated."

"I believe we are learning from past mistakes or recklessness," he said.

The Holy See balance sheet was also published as the Holy See undergoes an onsite financial inspection by Moneyval, the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering watchdog.

The evaluation will likely include looking at the role of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City.

In 2018, Pope Francis asked for Vatican investments to be centralized under APSA's management.  

Guerrero said that the project of centralizing investments in APSA was advancing "little by little."

The prefect also acknowledged that he made a request in April that all dicasteries transfer their liquid assets to APSA, saying he did it in anticipation of revenue loss due to Italy's coronavirus lockdown. 

In May, Guerrero said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican is forecasting a reduction in income of between 30% and 80% for the next fiscal year.  

The Oct. 1 Holy See financial report for 2019 showed that the expenditure of the 60 curial offices for 2019 totaled 318 million euros (around $374 million) out of an income of 307 million euros.

The deficit of 11 million euros was smaller than the 2018 deficit due to 68 million euros in investment returns, the report showed. It said that the increase was "mostly attributable to the effect of the recovery of share prices in 2019."

The report did not include financial statements for other Vatican entities which collaborate with the Holy See, such as the governorate of Vatican City State, the IOR, or Peter's Pence, the pope's charitable fund which comes from an annual Church-wide collection.

These institutions and others "present their results, and report to the corresponding authorities," Guerrero said.

Despite not being part of the report, Guerrero said that Peter's Pence covered 32% of the expenses "for the mission of the Holy See."

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The prefect said that Peter's Pence in 2019 "collaborated with the mission of the Holy Father" for a total of 66 million euros, with 23 million coming from reserve funds in addition to what was donated in 2019.

Guerrero noted that this shortage has happened in the last few years, lowering the capital of Peter's Pence overall.

The balance sheet showed overall income and expenditure figures for 2019 and a breakdown of how much went to each curial department.

Expense categories were listed as apostolic mission, assets management, and services and administration.

Under apostolic mission, the largest expense went to "message diffusion" at 22% and apostolic nunciatures -- the Holy See's embassies abroad -- at 21%.

Supporting local churches in difficulty and mission territories accounted for 16%. Donations made up 12%, and 9% was spent on maintaining the Curia's historic assets.

APSA had the largest expenditure at over 66 million euros toward asset management, followed by the Secretariat of State with more than 65 million in expenses, over 22 million attributed to administration costs.

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The Dicastery for Communication, the department which employs the greatest number of lay people in the Holy See, spent almost 46 million euros.

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