Pope, citing pandemic effect, cuts pay for cardinals, others

VATICAN CITY: Trying to save jobs as the pandemic pummels Vatican revenues, Pope Francis has ordered pay cuts for cardinals and other clerics, as well as nuns, who work at the Holy See.

In a decree published online Wednesday by the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Francis said that starting in April cardinals’ salaries will be reduced 10 percent. Superiors of the Holy See’s various departments, who, with few exceptions, are clerics, will be hit by 8 percent cuts while lower-ranking priests and nuns will see 3 percent vanish from their paychecks.

In the decree he signed on Tuesday, the pope noted that the Holy See’s finances have been marked by several years of deficit. Worsening those financial woes, the pope wrote, was the Covid-19 pandemic, “which has impacted negatively on all the sources of revenue of the Holy See and Vatican City State.”

The belt-tightening “has the aim of saving current job positions,” Francis wrote.

Lower-ranking lay-workers at the Vatican aren’t affected by the salary reductions, but their pay raises, due every two years, are being temporarily frozen under the austerity measures. The lowest-paid lay workers will still get raise, though.

Bans on tourism by many countries and other pandemic restrictions have severely reduced revenues at the Vatican Museums, which, with its Sistine Chapel, is a perennial money-maker for the Vatican,

The Museums opened for some weeks during the pandemic when the situation in Italy improved. But with tourists from the United States and some other countries banned from entering Italy, the museums’ cavernous rooms were eerily uncrowded in the pandemic.

The Museums are currently closed and will stay closed at least through the upcoming Holy Week, which normally is one of Rome’s heaviest periods for tourism.

Earlier this month, the Vatican said it has nearly used up its financial reserves from past donations to cover budget deficits over recent years. It has predicted a 50-million-euro ($60 million) deficit for this year.

Pandemic safety measures have seen many churches shuttered or limiting the number of faithful — many of whom leave monetary donations during services — who can enter.

The Vatican’s economy minister has said that the dwindled Museums revenue, as well as a drop in what Catholics donate, would contribute to a projected 30 percent reduction in revenue this year.

The pay cuts also apply to several Vatican basilicas in Rome as well as to the Vicariate, or diocese of Rome, which is under the pope’s direction.

Cardinals, other clerics and well as nuns in Rome generally don’t have expenses most lay people have, like market-value rents or mortgages, utility and heating bills, since many reside in housing owned by the Vatican or religious orders.

Some cardinals have spacious, well-appointed apartments in historic palazzi in Rome. A cardinal on the Vatican staff could earn close to 5,000 euros (($6,000) monthly, according to those familiar with Holy See hierarchy.

In any case, Francis noted, the salary reductions won’t apply to anyone who can document that the cuts will make it “impossible to meet fixed expenses related to their health conditions” or those of close relatives.