The Holy See, which is the subject of an investigation due to opaque real estate investment and questionable donations, exceptionally unveiled its latest financial accounts on Thursday, showing a new desire for transparency.
“It is possible that in some cases the Holy See has been badly advised, even cheated. I believe that we are learning from the mistakes and recklessness of the past ”, commented Thursday Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, who since January has headed the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See.
The transalpine press has been publishing for a week a deluge of testimonies and documents leaked on an investigation underway for the year, which examines the opaque circuit of financing of a luxury London building decided by the Roman Curia – central government of the Holy See – in 2014.
One of the decision-making prelates on this issue, the influential Italian cardinal Angelo Becciu, was also dismissed a week ago by the pope on suspicion of “embezzlement” in favor of his brothers.
In an interview published by the Holy See, the head of the Economy indicates that the Vatican manages around 4 billion in net assets, between the Roman Curia, the State of Vatican City – which notably runs its famous museums – , the Vatican Bank, pension funds and foundations. Without however revealing the details of these consolidated accounts, which would be profitable.
“The economy of the Holy See must be a house of glass”, estimated the person in charge, while publishing on the other hand all the components of the resources of the Roman Curia, which brings together 60 entities in the service of the Pope and has 1.4 billion d ‘net assets, including substantial financial investments and income from real estate.
“The Holy See does not operate like a company or a State, it does not seek profits and surpluses,” notes Father Guerrero, explaining the deficit in his balance sheet, which in 2019 amounted to 11 million. euros, against a deficit of 75 million in 2018.
In this very detailed report, we learn, for example, that the Holy See obtained 15 million euros from the sale of a property, but that two other properties were purchased in Rome.
The Holy See has 307 million euros in income and has accumulated 318 million in expenditure. The last officially published accounts of the Curia date back to 2015.
The head of the Vatican economy confirmed on Thursday that the “Denarius of St. Peter” – an annual collection of donations made to the Pope by faithful around the world – had not been used to buy the building in the upscale London district of Chelsea, under investigation.
This two-step purchase by businessmen was launched with “funds reserved from the Secretariat of State”, the central administration of the Holy See.
This clarification from the Catholic Church is timely, because this important collection will be carried out next Sunday, after being postponed to the end of June due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The help of the faithful to the Denarius of Saint Peter is a concrete way of collaborating in the mission of the Holy Father for the good of the whole Church”, pleaded Father Guerrero.
In 2019, this windfall represented 53 million euros, including 10 million intended for objectives defined by donors. These donations can also be fructified in safe investments “of good father of family” specified the Vatican.
The last official figure for this global fundraising was in 2013, the year in which 71 million euros in donations were collected.