The Vatican out of money? Heavens no, says pope's financial adviser

Pope Francis at the Apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
Pope Francis at the Apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

Pope Francis's economic adviser on Tuesday denied reports the Vatican was at risk of default, saying the allegations were part of a campaign to discredit the pontiff.

"To say that the Vatican is at danger of default is false," said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, who heads a group of six cardinals that advise Francis on economic reforms within the Catholic Church's governing body.

"It seems to me there is a discrediting strategy underway," he said in an interview with the Repubblica newspaper.

Maradiaga was reacting to allegations in a book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who claims to have seen internal documents that show the Vatican's finances are in a dire state and the institution is "at risk of default".

"They want to undermine the pontificate: First by depicting a Church made up mainly of paedophiles, and now by showing economic negligence. But it's not true," Maradiaga said.

Nuzzi has made a name for himself by publishing a series of books on Vatican financial scandals. In his latest, published on Monday, he analyses the Vatican's books for 2018, showing them to be in the red and getting worse.

The book says APSA, a department of the Holy See which oversees real estate and investments, had a deficit of nearly 44m euros ($49m) in 2018, compared to 32m the previous year.

Nuzzi said the real estate portfolio was worth an estimated 2.7bn euros and was badly managed.

Some 800 properties were lying empty, he said, while 15% of the 3 200 rented properties were being let for free, and others were being rented out below market prices.

An internal report by the pope's advisors, quoted in the book, warns that the Vatican "deficit is recurrent and structural, and has reached worrying levels, with a risk of default if urgent action is not taken". 

APSA head Bishop Nunzio Galantino also rebuffed the book's findings.

"There is neither backruptcy nor default," just a need for a savings plan "to contain expenses", he told the Avvenire daily.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, immediately!
37% - 2485 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
26% - 1764 votes
No, I don't think they need it
37% - 2460 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.09
(-0.16)
ZAR/GBP
21.02
(-0.23)
ZAR/EUR
18.22
(-0.19)
ZAR/AUD
11.62
(-0.25)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-0.54)
Gold
1734.50
(+0.02)
Silver
26.67
(+0.05)
Platinum
1186.51
(+0.42)
Brent Crude
64.40
(-2.56)
Palladium
2310.00
(+0.58)
All Share
66138.05
(-1.99)
Top 40
60754.30
(-2.11)
Financial 15
12200.05
(-1.09)
Industrial 25
86144.34
(-0.81)
Resource 10
67459.85
(-4.14)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo