VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Donations to the Holy See are expected to continue to drop following financial scandals currently at the heart of a high-profile Vatican trial. The institution is tackling an expected deficit of $37 million, according to its 2022 budget projection published Friday (Jan. 28).
The Vatican expects to have an income of $857.1 million and expenditures of $894 million in 2022. Efforts to cut costs in the department and offices that make up the Roman Curia have led to a reduction of its expenditures by about $4.5 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the institution’s finances, which largely depend on foreign tourists visiting the Vatican Museums. But financial scandals surrounding the purchase of a costly property in London using a fund destined for charity, known as Peter’s Pence, has undermined the Vatican’s credibility and cost it millions of dollars.
The London property purchase is at the center of the ongoing Vatican trial of 10 individuals, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who are charged with — among other things — abuse of power, corruption and money laundering.
The Vatican will publish a report on Peter’s Pence in the coming months, but donations are expected to have decreased by 15% in 2021, said Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, in an interview with Vatican Media published alongside the 2022 budget.
Donations to Peter’s Pence in 2021 decreased to barely over $41 million following a downward trend that can be traced to before the onslaught of the pandemic.
While COVID-19 has negatively impacted donations due to reduced Mass attendance, Guerrero acknowledged that the real issue is restoring the reputation of the church among the faithful by increasing transparency and enacting modern accounting regulations.
“We are well aware that we have made major mistakes in financial management, which have undermined the credibility of the Holy See,” Guerrero said. “We seek to learn from them and we believe we have remedied them so that they do not happen again.”
Guerrero also said the Vatican has signed a contract with a buyer for the controversial London property. “The loss from the alleged swindle,” Guerrero said, “was already taken into account in the balance sheet.”
Other measures include enacting Pope Francis’ new laws requiring greater fairness and transparency in the institution and reducing expenses by Vatican departments. “Obviously, there is a limit to the reduction — the mission has to be accomplished,” Guerrero said.
In 2019, Pope Francis issued a law for the purchase of goods and services by Vatican entities that, while increasing transparency, also added to the length and bureaucracy of such operations.