Vatican Reports Deficit for Third Year

By Victor L. Simpson
Associated Press
July 7, 2004

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican reported a deficit for the third consecutive year Wednesday but an increase in donations provided a bright spot at a time of some dismal financial news for the Catholic Church because of settlements from the sex abuse scandal.

In its annual financial report, the Vatican listed a 2003 deficit of about $11.8 million, 30 percent lower than than the 2002 figure. It reduced the shortfall despite the costs for the Holy See's expanding diplomatic missions.

At the same time, it reported an increase in contributions to the pope, known as Peter's Pence, which it said were used for various humanitarian relief efforts around the world and for the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

The figures regard the administrative headquarters of the Catholic Church, its property and its diplomatic missions.

Dioceses around the world are largely independent of Vatican financial control, although they are expected to seek Vatican approval before taking such drastic steps as seeking bankruptcy protection.

The Portland, Ore., Archdiocese became the first American diocese to do so Tuesday because of heavy claims. Boston has threatened to do so at the height of the scandal two years ago and Tucson, Ariz., has said it will decide whether to seek court protection before an abuse trial in September.

The church in Ireland has also been financially pressed because of sexual abuse cases.

The Vatican went through 23 money-losing years until 1993. The situation improved dramatically after bishops around the world agreed to assist the Vatican.

Vatican financial experts often cite heavy personnel costs, noting 2,674 people work in Church offices - more than half lay people. But the Vatican has also expanded its diplomatic activity, with missions in 118 countries or agencies around the world.

Wednesday's report listed 2003 revenues as 203.6 million euros - about $250 million by today's exchange rates - and expenditures of 213.2 million euros, about $262 million.

The Vatican report gave no breakdown in contributions, but listing the figure in dollars said Peter's Pence took in $55.8 million last year, up 5.7 percent from 2002 when donations from the United States led the list, followed by Germany and Italy.

The 2003 picture was not immediately known.

But Vatican officials expressed relief last year that donations from the United States actually increased despite the scandal.

The statement Wednesday praised the "ever-growing and generous commitment" by the faithful to support the pope's charitable works.

In a separate listing, the Vatican city-state was also in deficit, by some $10.8 million, down 45 percent from the previous year. Much went to cover the cost of running Vatican Radio, which transmits around the world.

The city-state entity runs the actual territory, responsible for upkeep and restoration. It is a source of major revenue through the sale of stamps and coins.


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