Alessandro De Carolis – Vatican City
Their work is a sign of maximum transparency. The daily management of the Holy See’s patrimony specifically characterizes the reform initiated by Pope Francis in the last few years. It is with this in mind that APSA published its 2020 financial reports last July. Its profit amounted to €21.99 million, down €51.2 million from the year before. These numbers reflect the consequences of Covid. For APSA’s President, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, everything is geared toward the goal of a “trustworthy and credible administration” conducted according to the desire of the Pope, with “an exemplary style in line with the Church’s mission”.
In the wake of what Benedict XVI began, Pope Francis embarked on a path characterized by reasoning and transparency in the management of the Vatican economy and finances in 2014, to the point of redesigning APSA’s role with the Motu proprio On temporal goods, dated 4 July 2016. What have the criteria, motivations and practical consequences been behind this process?
The centralization of economic management Pope Francis desired is only the conclusion of a much broader and important process begun, as you have recalled, by Pope Benedict XVI. It is a process of reasoning for the purpose of transparency and to be in control of everything that concerns the management and administration of the resources of the Holy See—without there being any areas where controls are absent. With utmost respect for those involved and the institutions, I think that submitting to a clear procedure and accepting these controls is the minimum that can be done so that the administration is trustworthy and credible. Everywhere. Even in the Vatican.
Certainly, there is a change of mentality in play that we are addressing under the guidance of Pope Francis. This type of change is always difficult to achieve quickly and together, in any sector or structure. It seems that what is being done, thanks to the procedure put in place, is going in the right direction. I am referring to the publication of the Norms regarding contracts, accompanied by the Motu proprio that defined the correct procedure and choices; to the constitution of the “Commission for Confidential Matters”, to the procedure for the Acts of extraordinary administration; to the centralization of investments and to the definition of key procedures, that permit traceability, transparency and controls. The process is a long one, but with the Lord’s help and for the good of the Church, we think it can be done.
The last part of this process, in terms of chronology, was last December with the Motu proprio Regarding Certain Competencies in Economic and Financial Matters by which the Pope entrusted the management of the Secretariat of State’s financial investments and immovable goods (property) specifically to APSA. What significance and what practical implications did this decision have?
In virtue of the Motu proprio of December 2020, APSA has taken over the administration and management of resources that had been previously available to the Secretariat of State. Regarding the changes that have taken place, I must say that what is required of me, of the Secretary of this Dicastery and all our collaborators has certainly increased. All of us must ensure a transparent, competent and productive management, both in terms of quality and quantity.
The Pope continues to require of APSA and all the other Vatican entities involved in the field of administration an exemplary style in line with the Church’s mission. He requires this so that the Church’s proclamation and evangelization might also be credible through the reputation of those called to proclaim and witness to the Gospel. It would be difficult for a Church with little crediblity to find people who would be open to welcoming the Word of God. And then, being inserted into the social context, the Church is obliged to observe all the laws that regulate social and economic life.
This change also touched Peter’s Pence, since doubts and news about the management of this fund left the faithful disoriented who are called to participate through their own donations in the Church’s and the Pope’s mission. We would like to clarify the purpose of these offerings and where they end up.
Peter’s Pence is a contribution that comes from the local churches to sustain the Holy Father’s mission and his works of charity. The exercise of the Pope’s ministry in the Church and the world requires structures and personnel that need to be maintained and compensated for the professional service they provide. This encompasses all the rights needed for this. The Church sustains those activities connected with its mission through donations and income generated from its patrimony.
The costs sustained by the Holy See go toward material charity and evangelization: the payment of its employees’ salaries, and costs associated with spiritual, intellectual and social charity. This is what the Dicasteries are for: to guarantee the Church’s communion in the world, to communicate the Church’s teaching, the exercise of justice, the implementation of works of charity.
Peter’s Pence is one of the channels of income that contribute to sustain the two-dimensional characteristic of the Pope’s ministry (apostolic and charitable) that he carries out through the structures of the Roman Curia. Their operating costs – including salaries for approximately 5,000 Vatican employees – are subsidized through offerings, donations and revenues generated by the Holy See’s patrimony, since the Holy See cannot rely on an internal system of taxation.
Even the administration of the Holy See’s real estate has been the target of frequent controversy, which focus particularly on the actual size of this patrimony, on the fiscal implications that derive from it and on the criteria that justify its financial investments. Can you help clarify this for us?
The real estate assets managed by APSA in Italy amount to about 1.5 million square meters, distributed as follows: 14% (surface area) on the free market; 8% at subsidized rates (for employees, retirees, and other forms of assistance), the remaining 75% are dedicated to institutional purposes or are allocated for schools, universities, convents, seminaries…
Its real estate holdings (surface area) in Italy is primarily residential (27%), Directional-Commercial-Productive (17%), Service (11%), and the rest (45%) are subdivided into schools, libraries, museums, hospitals, garages, ancillary space.
The principal objectives these past years have been, and will continue to be in the future, that of improving the service and performance of the real estate holdings and to facilitate the control and transparency of the activities carried out. Part of the proceeds from rental payments are partially reinvested for maintenance and upgrading purposes. The rest is used to contribute to the expenses of the Holy See, and therefore, to the Pope’s mission.
One more than one occasion, you have stated that the Holy See’s mentality is not that of a company directed toward profit, as much as that of a “good father” who carefully administers resources for the good of the entire family. At this moment of serious economic crisis, is it possible to balance budgets without penalizing people or the activities placed at the service of the mission of the Pope and the Church?
It is true that the Holy See’s budget cannot be compared to that of a company. In fact, it is a “mission budget”. Each Dicastery and entity truly accomplishes a service. And each service has its costs but not necessarily revenue.
There have been years in which expenses were lower than revenue. This made it possible to create a reserve fund that until recently was managed by the Secretariat of State. There was no possibility of contributing money to this account in these last years.
From an economic point of view, 2020 was characterized by the devastating economic consequences caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, with negative repercussions regarding the management results of the various areas of APSA’s activities.
APSA’s concern was that of understanding and being able to manage the consequences resulting from this phenomenon which were directly or indirectly affecting and will affect the Holy See.
Our efforts are directed toward somehow maintaining the continuity of activities – not only APSA’s, but of the entire Curia.
Hence, numerous groups and meetings between Superiors and experts have been set up and have been operational for some time now, in order to put measures, procedures and solutions into play that must be functional so as to guarantee stability in a context that unfortunately presents strong unstable connotations.
Within the changed social-economic conditions and, thanks to a growing sensitivity of the Church in terms of management and administration of the goods entrusted to her, APSA has been called to do its part, rethinking its objectives and, in some areas, rethinking the methods of intervention.
In other terms, APSA is called to transform itself gradually from a structure that prevalently offers services on demand, to a pro-active reality, even in the way it administers the movable and immovable holdings of the Holy See.
Just a week ago, Pope Francis entrusted you with the task of presiding over the new Foundation for Catholic Heath, established as an “instrument” of APSA connected to the Holy See. What will the priorities and lines of action to sustain and relaunch the mission of the Church’s healthcare institutions?
The priorities will be the same as those the Pope indicated in the chirograph through which he established the Foundation: to construct a point of reference and support for Catholic healthcare institutions. Above all, for those who are having particular difficulties, so that, faithful to the charism of their Founders, they might continue to remain in the network of similar institutions and assure a service inspired by the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. These are generally healthcare facilities with high professional and scientific standards. We want to do everything possible so that everyone might continue receiving the benefits of the service these structures have commendably and effectively offered over time.
How is your activity and staff organized? What costs are incurred and what is the mission objective that directs the economic choices of the Dicastery?
APSA is organized by Offices and Services, subdivided into three primary Departments according to activity:
REAL ESTATE DEPARTMENT: 26
Income management office: 9
Technical management office: 13
Historical Registry Service: 4
MOVABLE GOODS AREA: 11
Analysis and Trading Office: 4
Investment Management Office: 4
Collection and Payment Office: 3
OTHER ACTIVITIES: 54
Management Control Office: 2
Acquisitions Office: 7
Accounting Office: 12
Legal Office: 4
Archives/Protocol Office: 5
Auxiliary Team: 17
Peregrinato Ad Petri Sedem: 7
Other members of personnel not working in the above-listed departments: 8