By Denis Turyahebwa
Pope Francis has ordered cardinals to take a 10 percent pay cut and reduced the salaries of most other clerics working in the Vatican in order to save jobs of employees as the coronavirus pandemic hit the Holy See’s income.
The Vatican said on Wednesday that Francis issued a decree introducing proportional cuts starting on April 1. A spokesman said most lay employees would not be affected by the cuts.
A senior Vatican prelate said it was believed to be the first time in living memory that a pope had taken such action.
Francis, 84, and from a working-class family, has often insisted he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times, even as the Vatican continues to run up deficits.
Cardinals who work at the Vatican and live there or in Rome are believed to get salaries of about 4,000 to 5,000 euros ($4,730 to $5,915) a month, and many live in large apartments.
Most priests and nuns who work in Vatican departments live in religious communities in Rome, such as seminaries, convents, parishes, universities and schools giving them greater protection from economic downturns.
They have much lower living expenses than lay employees such as police, ushers, firefighters, cleaners, art restorers and maintenance personnel who live in Rome and many of whom have families.
The Vatican’s top economic official said earlier this month that the Holy See, the central administrative body of the worldwide Catholic Church, may have to use 40 million euros in reserves for the second straight year as the Covid-19 pandemic burns through its finances.
It expects a deficit of about 50 million euros this year. Revenues are expected to be about 213 million euros in 2021, down 30 percent over 2020.
St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the latter a cash cow that received about 6 million paying visitors in 2019, were closed or only partially open for much of 2020 because of the pandemic. The museums had been due to reopen this month but remained closed because of a new lockdown by Italy.