VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis’ efforts to build a “poor church for the poor” got a little closer to becoming a reality on Wednesday (March 24) when he issued pay cuts for Vatican clergy and employees to aid the Holy See’s struggling finances, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a decree, or motu proprio, Pope Francis decreased the salary of Vatican cardinals by 10%. The heads of Vatican departments and secretaries will have their salary reduced by 8%, while the wages for priests and religious will be decreased by 3%.
Cardinals who work in the offices and departments that make up the Roman Curia are paid between $5,300 and $6,000 a month. Other cardinals’ and bishops’ salaries are regulated by the local dioceses and can vary greatly, depending on the country. Salaries for Vatican priests and religious tend to be considerably lower, roughly $1,400.
Popes in the Catholic Church do not receive a salary. As a Jesuit, Pope Francis took a vow of poverty, which means that he may not receive a fixed income. Pontiffs can rely on Peter’s Pence, a global fund of donations by Catholic faithful, to finance their charitable works.
The new measures will be applied indefinitely, starting on April 1. All seniority-linked salary raises have been blocked until 2023, the Vatican document states.
Pope Francis’ pay cuts are made “according to criteria of proportionality and progressivity,” the Vatican statement reads, with the highest reductions impacting senior and high-ranking officials. The Vatican finances rely largely on donations from the faithful and tourists from all over the world visiting the renowned Vatican Museums. The COVID-19 pandemic, which left the museums empty and donations dwindling, added further strain to the already depleted Vatican finances, with no signs of economic recovery in 2021.
The decision to cut salaries was done with the goal of “safeguarding existing jobs,” without resorting to firing employees, according to the decree. Pope Francis has been outspoken in the past about his opposition to mass layoffs, and in March 2017 he said “whoever closes businesses and takes jobs away from men commits a very serious sin.”
In its financial budget for 2021, the Vatican announced that the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on Vatican coffers amounts to more than $60 million.
The new measures are a response to “the deficit that has characterized the economic management of the Holy See for several years” and the economic consequences of the pandemic, “which negatively impacted all sources of revenue in the Holy See and Vatican City State,” the statement read.