U.S. Tops List of Donors to Vatican

The Associated Press, carried in Beliefnet [Vatican City]
July 9, 2004

Vatican City, July 8-(AP) The United States remained the main source of donations to the Vatican despite the financial woes of the U.S. Church because of settlements in the sex abuse scandal, Vatican officials said Thursday.

The Vatican's annual financial report for 2003 showed a deficit for a third consecutive year but an increase in donations for papal charities and humanitarian relief operations. "There was no reduction in offerings," said Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, the Vatican's economic chief. "The United States is still in first place."

Sebastiani was referring to offerings from individuals as well as financial assistance from dioceses, a key source of revenue for the Vatican.

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 this week became the first American diocese to do so because of heavy claims. Boston threatened to file for bankruptcy 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.

Sebastiani declined to comment on Portland's bankruptcy filing or say whether the Vatican was consulted. The cardinal made clear that the Vatican has been hurt by the strength of the euro because its financial statement is expressed in the European currency while much of its revenue is in dollars.

The Vatican's financial reports are based on exchange rates on the last day of the previous year. The euro increased from $1.05 on Dec. 31, 2002, to $1.26 on Dec. 31, 2003. For that reason, assistance sent from dioceses around the world was listed as dropping from 85.4 million euros, $106 million by today's rate, to 79.6 million euros, or $89 million.

Wednesday's report listed 2003 revenues as 203.6 million euros, about $250 million, and expenditures of 213.2 million euros, about $262 million. But 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.

Sebastiani credited strict controls on spending, particularly hiring, with helping to reduce the shortfall. The cardinal said the Vatican, like other institutions, was hurt by the global economic slowdown.

Vatican accountant Paolo Trombetta said the Vatican sought "safe if low yield" investment opportunities, much of it government bonds.


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