Donations to Peter’s Pence fell by around 15% in 2021, the Vatican announced on Friday.
In an interview with Vatican News published on Jan. 28, Father Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said that, while donations were still arriving from some countries, there was a marked decrease compared to 2020.
He also disclosed that the sale of a London property at the center of a landmark Vatican finance trial would be concluded in June.
Commenting on Peter’s Pence, he said: “Roughly speaking, I can say that in 2021 there has again been a decrease compared to the previous year, which I would venture to quantify at no less than 15%.”
“If in 2020 the total collection of the Peter’s Pence was 44 million euros [around $49 million], in 2021 I do not think it will amount to more than 37 million euros [approximately $41 million].”
“The decrease in 2021 is in addition to the 23% decrease between 2015 and 2019 and the 18% decrease in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.”
Peter’s Pence is the Holy See’s annual collection to finance the pope’s charitable works and other priorities, including the Roman Curia.
The annual collection is usually taken up in Catholic churches around the world on a weekend close to the June 29 Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
“We are very dependent on uncertain income, which we see decreasing every year in this time of pandemic,” Guerrero said.
“It has to be this way, since the way we receive most of the donations from the faithful is through the collection of the Peter’s Pence in the churches, and the attendance in times of COVID has been reduced.”
“This should make us think about other methods of soliciting the help of the faithful and receiving donations.”
Guerrero, who was appointed prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2019, succeeding Cardinal George Pell, said that he would present the final 2021 figures for Peter’s Pence after the accounts are closed at the end of February.
The priest told Vatican News that 60 Sloane Avenue, the controversial London building at the heart of the recent financial scandal, was being sold above its valuation price.
“Sixteen bids were received, four were selected; after a second round of bids the best one was selected,” he said.
“The contract of sale has been signed, we have received 10% of the deposit and it will be concluded in June 2022.”
“The loss from the alleged swindle, which has been much talked about and is now being judged by the Vatican courts, was already taken into account in the balance sheet.”
“The building has been sold above the valuation we had in the balance sheet and the appraisal made by the specialized institutions.”
The interview with the Spanish Jesuit was published as the Vatican released more information about its budget for 2022. The Vatican said that it had calculated this year’s “mission budget” in a different way to previous years as it had added “30 new entities” to its balance sheet, increasing the number from 60 to 90.
Guerrero explained that Secretariat for the Economy took the step “because we are concerned about not having a vision of the risks outside the budget, which fall on the Curia when there are problems.”
The total deficit expected for 2022 is €33 million (around $37 million), compared to the €42 million ($47 million) shortfall budgeted for 2021.
The prefect noted that the Vatican’s Council for the Economy (CpE) approved the 2022 budget in December 2021.
He said: “It is understandable that the CpE has had difficulty in approving a budget with such a deficit for another year and has asked us to make plans to further reduce expenditures and increase revenues. According to our forecasts, we expect a somewhat lower deficit than budgeted in 2021.”
Guerrero underlined that cost-cutting alone would not guarantee financial stability and the Vatican needed to seek new sources of donations.
“The first requirement is transparency and clear accountability, and I think we have taken many steps in this direction,” he said.
“Apart from giving an annual account of the budget and the balance sheet, this year we hope to give an account of the inflow and outflow of the Peter’s Pence collection and to send the accounts of the Holy See to the bishops’ conferences for their information.”
“We have to make the local churches more aware of the needs of the Holy See; the Curia is at their service and must be largely maintained by them. There is a great difference in the commitment of the various Churches to the support of the Roman Curia. And [we also need] to enlist the help of the faithful, who want to support the pope in his mission of unity in charity, which is after all what the Roman Curia does.”