VATICAN CITY – Despite a serious drop in the value of the U.S. dollar, the Vatican’s 2006 budget closed with a surplus of more than $3.2 million, said Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, head of the Vatican’s general accounting office.
While salaries and pension contributions increased, a “brusque and accentuated” drop in the value of the U.S. currency was a big reason why the surplus was so much less than the 2005 surplus of $12 million, the cardinal told reporters July 6.
Presenting the 2006 consolidated budget of just the Holy See, primarily the Roman Curia, Cardinal Sebastiani said the value of the Vatican’s accounts was down an estimated $9.5 million solely because of the dollar’s drop against the euro.
Most donations to the Vatican and some of its investments are in dollars, yet the Vatican’s expenses are mainly in euros.
Cardinal Sebastiani met reporters four days after presenting the budget figures to the international Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.
A press release from the cardinals’ July 2 meeting also noted a huge increase in 2006 donations to Peter’s Pence, a fund placed at the personal disposition of the pope and used mainly for his charitable giving.
The July 3 press release said the 2006 donations to Peter’s Pence totaled almost $102 million, an increase of more than $42.4 million over 2005.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 6 that the figure included some “exceptional donations,” although he would not specify how many or from whom. The Vatican does not expect a repeat performance in the 2007 Peter’s Pence total, he said.
The Holy See budget results presented by Cardinal Sebastiani included the office in charge of Vatican property and investments, the papal household, Secretariat of State, nine congregations, 11 pontifical councils, three tribunals, 118 Vatican embassies around the world and the Vatican media operations: Vatican Radio, the daily newspaper, television production center, publishing house and printing press.
Their combined expenses added up to almost $307 million, while their combined income reached just over $310 million.
The statement said 2,704 people, including 773 bishops and priests, 331 members of religious orders and 1,600 laypeople, are employed in the Holy See offices.
While Peter’s Pence is not included in the Holy See budget figures, the figures do include donations from dioceses, religious orders and foundations given specifically to support the work of the central church offices.
Paolo Trombetta, the Vatican’s chief accountant, said that in 2006 for the first time dioceses in Germany gave more money than dioceses in the United States, but when foundations and religious orders are taken into consideration Catholics in the United States still give more money to the Vatican than those from any other nation.
The donations to the Holy See by all groups totaled almost $117 million in 2006, an increase of more than $16 million over the 2005 total, Cardinal Sebastiani said.
The increase in donations “partially counterbalanced the serious fall in the net balance profit” of the Vatican’s financial investments, Cardinal Sebastiani said. While the Vatican’s investments closed with a gain of $18.6 million, the income is small compared to the $58.8 million earned in 2005.
The decrease, the cardinal said, was due principally to changes in currency exchange rates, especially the fall of the U.S. dollar in comparison with the euro.
The Vatican printing press and publishing house continue to perform well financially, he said, while Vatican Radio dragged the budget down by more than $32 million and the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, closed the year almost $6 million in the red. The radio has hundreds of employees and broadcasts in dozens of languages without accepting any advertising. The Vatican newspaper operation is smaller, but only the daily Italian edition regularly carries a small amount of advertising; the weekly editions in English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Polish rarely carry advertising.
After the July 2 cardinals’ meeting, the Vatican said the separate budget of Vatican City State, which includes the Vatican Museums and the Vatican’s stamp and coin office, ended 2006 with a surplus of $29.7 million.