VATICAN (AFP) - Pope Francis on Wednesday (March 24) announced plans to cut the salaries of cardinals and priests, part of an ongoing effort by the pontiff to put the Holy See's finances in order.
Cardinals will see their salaries cut by 10 per cent as of April 1, while priests' paychecks will be reduced by three per cent, the pontiff wrote in an apostolic letter. The salaries of department heads and secretaries of dicasteries will also be reduced by eight per cent under the measure, which is designed to avoid the need for job cuts.
"An economically sustainable future today requires, among other decisions, the adoption of measures concerning staff salaries," read the notice. It cited the deficit of the Holy See - the governing body of the Catholic church - in recent years that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. "Although the Holy See and the Vatican City State are adequately capitalised, it is necessary to ensure sustainability and a balance between income and expenditure in current economic and financial management," wrote the pope.
Information about salaries - which are known as "remuneration - is murky, but in 2014, the newspaper Il Messaggero reported that within the Vatican, bishops are given five thousand euros each month (S$7,960), not including donations they receive destined for charity purposes. The Holy See expects a loss of almost 50 million euros this year, it said last month, as fallout from the pandemic continues to weigh on the budget.
Donations from the faithful to the pope for charity work have fallen, while the 30 million euros typically received from the Vatican museums each year has been cut by half following months of museum closures. The salary cuts will not apply if the person concerned can show that they cannot meet their healthcare needs, or that of their relatives, said the letter.
Francis also implemented a two-year freeze on seniority pay increases for all employees except for lower-level lay workers. Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has sought to put the Holy See's finances in order, while bringing greater accountability and transparency to the Vatican.
Following a string of scandals at the Vatican bank and allegations of mismanagement, he created a new finance ministry, brought in an outside auditor and strengthened the Vatican's financial watchdog agency. In 2019, when the last figures were published, the Vatican posted a deficit of 11 million euros.