ROME — Pope Francis has abolished housing discounts for cardinals, bishops, and other Vatican officials, citing a need to increase “revenues from the management of real estate assets.”
From now on, if prelates or Vatican department heads wish to continue living in Vatican apartments or other lodgings, they will be required to pay market prices, states the Holy See decree issued in the pope’s name.
Alluding to a “particularly grave” economic climate, the pontiff has requested that everyone make an “extraordinary sacrifice” so as to be able to channel the greatest possible economic resources to the Holy See’s mission, which includes a “growing commitment” to the needy.
While some Vatican cardinals live in relative opulence, such as the notorious case of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, others struggle to get by on nominal salaries or retirement benefits.
Any arrangement providing for “free or advantageous accommodation” of properties owned by the curial institutions and bodies of the Holy See by cardinals, department heads, presidents, secretaries, under-secretaries, executives and equivalents — “no matter when it was made or by whom” — is hereby abrogated, the decree states.
All Vatican entities are also forbidden from giving the aforementioned subjects the so-called “accommodation contribution” or similar contributions for the purpose of sharing in the rent or accommodation costs.
The text declares that contracts including advantageous lodging accommodations that are currently in force will be allowed to run to their “natural expiration” but can only be extended or renewed with the express permission of the pope himself.
This latest measure comes hard on the heels of a seemingly unending series of financial scandals involving the Vatican’s highest officials and the pope himself.
As one prime example, in 2018, Francis asked one of the largest American Catholic charities for $25 million to help bail out a scandalously mismanaged Italian hospital that had gone into bankruptcy after a staggering 800 million euros went “missing.”
The Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), a Catholic dermatological hospital, underwent a criminal investigation in 2015 leading to an indictment of 40 persons, charged with a total of 144 counts of crimes including fraudulent bankruptcy, the issuance of false invoices, concealment of accounting records, embezzlement, and tax evasion.
The alleged financial fraud ran into the tens of millions of euros and became one of the Church’s largest economic scandals in recent memory.
To address the crisis, Francis approached the Papal Foundation, an American association of Catholics founded in 1988 with the mission of serving “those needs of the Church that are of particular significance to the Holy Father,” especially among the poor in the developing world.
The pope’s request for $25 million seemed especially out of place, since the foundation’s grants rarely exceed $200,000, leading lay members of the foundation to balk at the ask.
Then, in the fall of 2019, Vatican security carried out an unprecedented internal raid on the offices of the Secretariat of State and the Financial Information Authority, which oversees the Vatican Bank. Vatican gendarmes confiscated documents and electronic devices, and five Vatican employees were suspended on allegations of financial wrongdoing involving property dealings in London’s upscale Chelsea district worth some $350 million. The real estate deal reportedly cost the Vatican millions of euros in payments to middlemen.
Along with the ill-conceived purchase of the London property, leading to the indictment of the Vatican’s no. 3 man, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, financial scandals during the Francis pontificate also included the investment of millions to finance questionable enterprises like the steamy Elton John biopic Rocket Man, which reportedly contained “the most explicit gay love scene since Brokeback Mountain in 2005.”
The Vatican invested upwards of a million dollars to back the Rocketman film about singer Elton John. https://t.co/RMyuLfe4en
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 7, 2019
The Vatican also became a 25 percent partner in Lapo Elkann’s company Italia Independent to the tune of 6 million euros, as well as a €10 million partner with industrialist Enrico Preziosi, the chairman of the Genoa soccer team.
Besides the Rocket Man film, the Vatican also invested some €3.3 million in the production of the 2019 Men in Black International film featuring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.
The revelation that mis-invested funds had come from monies donated by the Catholic faithful through “Peter’s Pence” collections, which finance the pope’s charitable actions around the world, further aggravated the scandals.
Last week, Francis decreed that all assets of institutions created by departments of the Roman Curia, or by other entities linked to the Holy See, belong to the Vatican and are directly subject to the pope’s control, a move seen as evidence of greater ecclesiastical centralization, or what has been referred to as the Francis papacy’s “imperial phase.”
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