Vatican City, Sep 20, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- The heads of dicasteries and Vatican City State institutions met Friday to discuss finances and how to reverse a reportedly rapidly growing deficit in the Holy See’s budget.
Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, confirmed to CNA that the meeting took place Sept. 20 among heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of institutions connected to the Holy See and Vatican City State.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in May Pope Francis asked Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances, to convoke the meeting to consider solutions and to “inform the respective heads about the gravity of the situation.”
The Holy See sustained a deficit of roughly 70 million euros ($77 million) in 2018, doubled from the previous year, according to Vatican officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Sept. 20 meeting was intended to increase awareness of the issue among Vatican officials, many of whom are unaware of the gravity of the situation, according to Joseph Zahra, a Maltese economist who is a member of the Council for the Economy.
Zahra also said the Vatican will be releasing a financial report this fall, the first since 2015.
Vatican finances have been one of the major focuses of Pope Francis’ reform efforts, though he has faced serious setbacks.
Efforts began in 2013, with the creation of an investigatory commission to examine the Holy See’s administrative structures. Consisting of seven lay experts, one clerical secretary, and external consultants, the commission met from August 2013 to May 2014.
This work was later overshadowed when, in 2015, two former members of the commission were arrested for stealing and leaking confidential information about Francis’ papacy.
In February 2014, Pope Francis made his first major structural changes to the Roman Curia, establishing the Council for the Economy and the Office of Auditor General, an autonomous office with the power to conduct special investigations.
He also created the Secretariat for the Economy, appointing Cardinal George Pell as prefect, but that office is now vacant, as Pell returend to his home country to defend himself against charges of child sex abuse, of which he was convicted. The cardinal is appealing his conviction.