Vatican Corner 06-07-2020

On May 10, 2020, the Italian newspaper II Messaggero made the claim that they had a copy of an internal financial analysis that was given to Pope Francis during a recent meeting with the heads of the Vatican departments. The newspaper claimed the analysis stated that the annual deficit could grow to 175% and that different financial scenarios from best to worst case were presented if revenues continued to decline. The newspaper also stated that the Pope advised the department heads to be frugal, freeze the hiring of new employees, eliminate unnecessary costs and to not make new trips or organize new conferences. In an interview with Vatican News on May 13, 2020, Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, was asked about the newspaper article. He said that although the Vatican is facing difficult years ahead because of the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, its budget is not facing a massive default. He said the Vatican is determined “to find a way to ensure our mission” and will decide “what is and what is not essential.” However, “our economy cannot be completely measured merely in terms of deficit or cost. We are not a business, our objective is not to make a profit, our bottom line is in view of mission.” Father Guerrero said the Church carries out its mission thanks to the offerings of the faithful, however the Church must also do its part to show those who donate part of their savings to us that their money is well spent.” He noted that the Vatican’s finances are less than the average American university. He said the most optimistic scenario is a 25% decrease in revenue, while the most pessimistic averages around 45%. He said “unless there is some extraordinary income, it is clear that the deficit will increase.” Nevertheless, “there are three things that are not in question, not even in this moment of crisis: employee salaries, aid for people in difficulty and support for the churches in need. No cut will affect those who are the most vulnerable.” A major source of revenue comes from the Vatican Museums, and being closed for nine weeks has cost the Vatican millions of dollars in revenue. The Vatican Museums reopened on June 1, 2020. During closure only essential services were maintained using about 30 employees. The museums normally employee nearly 1,000 people as administrators, restorers, art historians, and ticket agents, etc. The museums employees continued to receive their salaries during the closure at the insistence of Pope Francis, while non-urgent expenses were cut. Millions of visitors visit the Vatican Museums each year and in 2015 they generated $87 million dollars of which half was surplus revenue, according to the Economist magazine. A visit to a museum is now by reservation only as required by the new health measures in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Large groups of people will not be allowed for a long time to come. The number of people allow in the museum at one time has been reduced and entrance times are now staggered. Thermal scanners have been installed to detect the visitor’s temperatures and all people are required to wear a mask.