VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis has ordered drastic cost-cutting measures in the Vatican from April 1 — slashing cardinals' salaries by 10% — as lockdowns supported by the pontiff take a fatal toll on the Holy See's finances.
An apostolic letter issued motu proprio (on his own impulse) by the pontiff Wednesday announced that the measure "on the containment of staff expenses" was taken "with a view to safeguarding current jobs."
The letter explained that "an economically sustainable future today requires, among other decisions, the adoption of measures concerning staff salaries," adding that "staff costs constitute a significant item of expenditure in the budget of the Holy See and the Vatican City State."
Cardinals receive remuneration of up to €5,000 ($5,900) per month, and those with Vatican City citizenship do not pay income tax. Cardinals living in Rome are given grace-and-favor apartments in Vatican-owned buildings.
Senior officials and clerics paid by the Holy See and the Vatican City State will also see their salaries reduced by between 3 and 8%, while pay raises for all but the three lowest pay grades will be suspended until March 2023.
The wage cuts also apply to officials in the vicariate of Rome, the chapters of the papal basilicas of the Vatican, the Lateran and the Liberian, the Fabric of Saint Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
In his motu proprio, Pope Francis stressed that slashing the salaries of high-ranking officials was "according to criteria of proportionality and progressiveness."
He admitted, however, that the Vatican was forced to implement the radical reforms following the COVID-19 lockdowns, which have pushed it to the brink of a financial meltdown.
Francis also acknowledged that "deficit ... has characterized the economic management of the Holy See for several years."
In an interview earlier in March, the Vatican's prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy confirmed a deficit of almost €50 million, which would have risen to €80 million if not for the existence of Peter's Pence — the pope's charitable fund for the poor.
"If this goes on too long, we will not be able to contain the deficit except with the support of the faithful," Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, S.J. warned, begging Catholics to donate to Peter's Pence.
Catholics who "believe in the mission of the Church and want to support the Holy Father" continue to support the Vatican's finances, Alves said, urging the faithful to imitate the widow in the gospel "who gave a small amount — everything she had."
Donors have increasingly withheld contributions to the scandal-ridden fund after recent revelations that up to 90% of Peter's Pence money is being used to plug administrative deficits, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works, Church Militant reported.
Faithful Catholics incensed by Francis' liberal and left-wing policies and sex abuse scandals have repeatedly stated their intention to withhold contributions to Rome as a sign of protest.
In a Monday podcast, Rome-based tour operator Mountain Butorac (who is a Catholic), outraged by the recent decision to ban private Masses at the side altars of St. Peter's Basilica, asked Catholics not to give to Peter's Pence.
The so-called private Masses have been a blessing for countless numbers of Catholic tourists who are able to attend Mass — often in their native language. The Masses have also been instrumental in bringing non-believers to faith in Christ.
The closure of the Vatican museums may have resulted in a loss of over €22 million so far. Museum fees generate over €80 million each year, with around 20,000 daily visitors. Around €20 million is earned from souvenirs and corporate hospitality.
Francis has been a staunch supporter of lockdowns — despite scientific studies revealing the futility of the draconian measures to contain the spread of the China virus.
The pontiff has attacked anti-lockdown protestors, calling them "victims only in their own imagination — those who claim, for example, that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the State, yet who forget or do not care about those who cannot rely, for example, on social security, or who have lost their jobs."
During Holy Week 2020, the Vatican issued a memo forecasting "heavy repercussions" for "the economic and financial situation of the Holy See and of the State of Vatican City" that will "only become more serious with the passing of time," Church Militant reported.