VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Authorized by Pope Francis, the Vatican’s Secretariat for Economy has overturned the accommodation allowances granted to cardinals and Vatican curial officials, meaning that they will have to now pay the considerably expensive standard asking prices of the property.
Issued in a rescript, the new directives were the result of a private meeting Pope Francis held with the newly appointed Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy, Dr. Maximino Caballero Ledo, on February 13. The rescript was reported first by Italian Catholic blog Messa in Latino, with Vatican News and Reuters subsequently publicizing some of its contents one day later.
Citing “growing commitments” to the #Church and the “needy,” #PopeFrancis has ruled #Vatican prelates & officials can no longer have free/reduced accommodation.
He will decide any exceptions.
The news was not published publicly by the Holy See.
Report– https://t.co/yE0RSBUHPT pic.twitter.com/eJfNnlBVyG
— Michael Haynes 🇻🇦 (@MLJHaynes) February 28, 2023
The rescript was placed in the San Damaso Courtyard, reportedly without any fanfare, for officials in the Vatican to see.
The rescript affects cardinals, along with heads of Vatican dicasteries, their presidents, secretaries, undersecretaries, executives and their equivalents. Additionally affected are members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
Citing the “growing commitments” of the Holy See to the “universal Church and the needy,” Francis called upon all those affected “to make an extraordinary sacrifice.”
Thus, effectively immediately, the free or reduced rate accommodation offered to the cardinals and upper-level curial officials named in the rescript is revoked. This applies to individuals residing in any property owned by the curia or any entity governed by the Holy See’s statutes outlined in the Council for the Economy.
The Domus Sancta Marthae – the hotel used by Pope Francis instead of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace – is also included under the changes, since it functions as a guest house for those visiting the Vatican.
Under the rescript, all the property shall be offered at a charge it would be to those who “are without assignments of any kind in the Holy See and in the Vatican City State.”
Francis granted that any accommodation agreements already in place would remain so until their expiration, at which point the new rules would take effect. However, for any arrangements for free or reduced accommodation submitted after December 31, 2022, the Pope ruled that they should be dealt with under the terms of the new rescript.
Any exceptions to the document are to be handled by the Pope directly, the rescript states.
It is unclear exactly how the property will be valued by the Holy See and at what price it will be offered to the cardinals and curial officials. The area surrounding the Vatican is one of the most expensive in the city, with a regular-sized apartment of around 60 m² costing a minimum of €500,000 and rising swiftly to upward of €1 million.
Yet the Vatican’s property is much older and has never before been rented to those with no Vatican connection, thus making the precise value unknown.
Additionally, while many of the Vatican-owned properties are used by active curial cardinals and officials, they are also home to retired cardinals.
Cardinals are widely understood by Vatican observers to receive around €5,000 per month. Just under two years ago, Pope Francis reduced the salaries of cardinals by 10%, and those of department heads and secretaries by 8%. Priests and religious had their wages cut by 3%.
Explaining this move at the time, Francis cited the Vatican’s flailing finances – a situation he said had been made worse by the COVID-19 restrictions.
There has been a considerable amount of news regarding the Vatican’s finances in recent weeks, much of which appears to be centralizing power and money in the Vatican away from those who had previously enjoyed the use of the Holy See’s assets.
Only last week, Francis issued a motu proprio regulating the Holy See’s ownership of assets, stipulating that any assets acquired by the Roman Curia or connected institutions are “ecclesiastical public property” and thus owned directly by the Holy See.
The Pontiff noted that no “institution or entity” could lay claim to “private and exclusive ownership or titling” of any of the Holy See’s assets, since the institution must “always” act “in the name, on behalf of and for the purposes of the Holy See as a whole, understood as a unitary moral person, only representing it where required and permitted in the civil orders.”
That motu proprio, Il diritto nativo, came after the Vatican was revealed to have accepted the gift of a convent from a group of nuns who were eager to save the property, only to then order them to leave days later. The historic monastery was assessed to be worth €50-60 million and of great prominence for the order.
The two texts enacted more control over the financial governance of certain entities within the Holy See but excluded the “Institutions” of the Roman Curia. Under the December law, Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy retained wide-reaching financial oversight of all such entities, and also consult with the relevant curial office on matters relating to the entity’s financial budget approval.
The Vatican’s finances have been plagued with scandal for decades, and the late Cardinal George Pell’s attempted reform of the Holy See’s finances are widely believed to have faced strong opposition, notably from former number two in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, opposition that has even been linked to the allegations of sexual abuse made against Pell.
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s former auditor general, Libero Milone, is suing the Holy See, arguing that he and his deputy were unlawfully fired after Becciu unjustly accused them of spying and embezzlement in June 2017, accusations that, they argue, stemmed from their audit, which uncovered widespread corruption within the hierarchy of the Holy See.
Commenting on the Vatican’s financial situation, Catholic historian and author Henry Sire stated how “[i]t has long been known that the management of the Vatican’s real estate is utterly chaotic: there has been a total lack of financial control, many properties left unoccupied, many left to go to rack and ruin, and the most shameful cronyism in the way residences are allocated.”
“Profitability could be increased many times over simply by proper professional management,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“Knowing what we do about the way the Vatican is run nowadays, one suspects that that has not been tried, that the cronyism is worse than ever, and that the recently announced decision is just a publicity stunt to deflect attention from the failure to address the real problem.”