he Vatican, on Thursday, issued the first detailed disclosure of the Pope’s main fund in an attempt to boost the confidence of the faithful in how their charitable contributions were used.
The Peter’s Pence fund, whose aim was to help the Pope run the Church, was made up of income from a collection taken up in Roman Catholic dioceses around the world once a year, individual contributions and inheritances, and bequests.
According to the “Annual Disclosure” for 2021, contributions amounted to 46.9 million euros.
Compared to previously released figures, this was down more than 15 percent over 2020, which was down 18 percent over 2019. That followed a 23 percent reduction between 2015 and 2019, according to the disclosure.
Disbursements from the fund totalled 65.3 million euros, leaving a deficit of 18.4 million euros which was covered by other Vatican income.
The Vatican’s economy minister, Father Antonio Guerrero, had said the slump in 2020-2021 was due to the COVID-19 pandemic when many churches were closed.
Many Catholics, however, said they had stopped contributing because of Vatican financial scandals such as one surrounding the purchase of a building in London, an investment at the centre of an ongoing corruption trial.
Guerrero said the finances of the Vatican had to be a “glass house”, adding the faithful have a “right to know how we use resources”.
Significantly, the disclosure for the first time, detailed how the money was spent.
About 55.5 million euros were used to help defray the costs of running Vatican departments, its embassies around the world, its communications structure and to help local churches.
About 10 million euros from Peter’s Pence went to 157 direct assistance projects, including those to help the poor, children, elderly and victims of natural disasters and war.
According to the disclosure, most of the projects were in Africa and Asia.
The disclosure gave details of some of the direct assistance projects, such as one constructing a building for young people in Haiti and another ending online sexual exploitation and trafficking of children in the Philippines.
The changes in transparency regarding Peter’s Pence stemmed from a decree by Pope Francis in December 2020.
The Vatican had been facing a series of issues some of which were clerical abuse and its handling, the new translation of the Roman Missal, the Bishop Bill Morris affair, the reining in of Caritas, the censure in the United States of the group representing religious sisters and of the work of two women theologians.
Some pressing issues also included the silencing of prominent Irish priests and the cleaning out of the Irish College in Rome, the public disquiet expressed by clergy in Austria and Ireland, the sacking of the head of the Vatican Bank, the steady leaking of confidential Roman documents.
On May 12, a former Harford County church priest was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for coercing a boy, a parishioner to engage in sexual activities with him for nearly two years.
Fernando Cristancho was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in Colombia, South America, in 1985, before moving to Alexandria, where he worked as an assistant priest from 1994 to 1997.