VATICAN CITY — A top Vatican administrator is denying the Holy See risks default over its structural deficit, saying claims in a new book about possible financial ruin are overblown.
Nunzio Galantino, president of the office that manages the Vatican’s real
estate and other assets, told the Avvenire newspaper of the Italian bishops’
conference Tuesday that all that is needed is a “spending review” to bring down
was responding to claims in a new book published Monday, “Universal Judgment”
by Italian author Gianluigi Nuzzi, that has added to speculation about the
Vatican’s finances and the state of Pope Francis’ promised reforms.
Vatican hasn’t published a budget since 2015 and has been without an in-house
auditor or economy minister for more than two years, fueling conspiracies about
its financial health.
conspiracies have only grown following a new financial scandal that erupted
this month, after Vatican police raided the secretariat of state and the
financial intelligence unit in search of documentation about a problematic 150
million-euro London real estate investment.
search warrant, excerpts of which were published this weekend by L’Espresso
magazine, alleges fraud, money laundering and abuse of office connected to the
London venture and efforts by the Vatican to renegotiate the terms and identify
money managers who were fleecing the Holy See in the deal.
scandal has laid bare both the vast amount of money the Holy See has at its
disposal for investment — including donations from the faithful for charity —
and the seeming incompetence of the Vatican monsignors responsible for managing
the warrant, L’Espresso reported the secretariat of state was managing
off-balance sheet assets of some 650 million euros “derived mostly from
donations received by the Holy Father for works of charity and supporting the
Roman Curia,” or the Vatican bureaucracy.
said the Vatican in 2012 considered investing some $200 million of that money
in an Angolan offshore oil rig, based on a proposal by Cardinal Angelo Becciu,
the Vatican’s then-chief of staff and onetime ambassador to Angola.
proposal was ultimately rejected as unsafe. Instead, the money was invested in
converting a onetime Harrod’s warehouse in Chelsea into luxury apartments. But
even that deal went sour, after Becciu’s replacement in 2018 realized the
Vatican was being fleeced by the Italian financiers it had trusted, and sought
to buy them out.
scandal is the latest to draw attention to the opaque finances of the central
government of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church, which is funded not by
taxes but from donations and revenues from the Vatican Museums, real estate and
other money-making ventures in the city state.
head of the APSA administrative office, confirmed the Vatican owned 2,400
apartments and 600 commercial spaces in Rome and nearby, 60% of which are
rented to Holy See employees at a reduced rent as part of their benefits.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the Vatican’s economy council, has
acknowledged Francis has told him to bring down costs but has insisted the
shortfall can be resolved over the next year or two. He did not dispute news
reports estimating the deficit at about 70 million euro.
to go forward otherwise I cannot see how to sign a budget with a structural
deficit,” Marx told reporters this month. “But that is a way we can go in
several years. That is not a catastrophe.”