The Council for the Economy held an online meeting this week to discuss several challenges to Vatican finances, including the city state's pension fund.

According to a press release from the Holy See, the Dec. 15 meeting also addressed aspects of the Vatican's budget for 2021 and a draft of statutes for a new committee to help keep Holy See investments ethical and profitable.

Cardinal George Pell, formerly the head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, said recently that the Vatican has a "very looming and considerable" deficit in its pension fund, as do many countries in Europe. 

As early as 2014, while still serving at the Vatican, Pell noted that the Holy See's pension fund was not in good shape. 

Participants in Tuesday's virtual meeting included Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Council for the Economy, and each of the council's cardinal members. Six lay women and one layman, appointed to the council by Pope Francis in August, also took part in the assembly from their respective countries. 

Also participating were Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; Gian Franco Mammì, director general of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR); Nino Savelli, president of the pension fund; and Bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA).

Galantino spoke about the Vatican's new "Investment Committee" in an interview in November.  

The committee of "high-profile external professionals" will work with the Council for the Economy and the Secretariat for the Economy to "guarantee the ethical nature of investments, inspired by the social doctrine of the Church, and at the same time, their profitability," he told the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana.

In early November, Pope Francis asked that investment funds be moved out of the Secretariat of State and into APSA, Galantino's office.

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APSA, which functions as the Holy See's treasury and sovereign wealth manager, administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City. It also oversees its own investments. It is now in the process of taking over the financial funds and real estate assets which were, until now, administered by the Secretariat of State.

In another interview, Galantino also denied claims that the Holy See is heading for financial "collapse." 

"There is no threat of collapse or default here. There is only the need for a spending review. And that is what we're doing. I can prove it to you with numbers," he said, after a book alleged that the Vatican might soon be unable to meet its ordinary operating expenses.

In May, Guerrero, prefect of the economy secretariat, 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 Council for the Economy will hold its next assembly in February 2021.