Pope’s Personal Income: Billions and Very Secret
By Betty Clermont
December 10, 2017
In 2013, the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, Catholics around the world put ˆ378 million (over $515 million) in the collection basket for the annual Peter’s Pence donation, the fund for the pope’s charitable works. This information was provided by Emiliano Fittipaldi in his book, Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church.
That same year, as in every year before, the Vatican Bank financial statement noted that profits were “offered to the Holy Father in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry.” In 2013, that was “a sum of ˆ50,000,000” (over $68 million). A declaration that profits were given to the pope has been omitted in subsequent statements.
Beginning in March 2016, the “messages of Pope Francis published daily on Twitter and Instagram together with photos and reflections” include a link for making donations to the Peter’s Pence fund for “all people who want to help those most in need.” The papal Twitter accounts in nine languages have over 40 million followers and his Instagram account is close to 5 million, according to the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, the new department created by Pope Francis to make sure “what the pope says and does is made known to the world as quickly as possible.”
Additionally, the Peter’s Pence fund was given its own web site in November 2016 to increase the opportunity for more online contributions.
MissioBot is an automatic chat system on Facebook Messenger, “which helps guide users through a chat experience with words by Pope Francis … The participant then has the opportunity to pray for particular intentions or donate to specific causes.”
In exchange for the license to use the pope’s image, nine percent of the sales price of each “Superpope” T-shirt depicting Pope Francis as a flying superhero goes to the Peter’s Pence fund.
On April 27, 2017, Pope Francis thanked the U.S. Papal Foundation for their annual contribution to his charities, $15 million in 2015 and $10 million in 2016. Last February, he thanked the Knights of Columbus for their $1.6 million donation.
Pope Francis also “receives lavish donations” from the wealthy, like Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Leonardo Di Caprio.
Proceeds from corporate charity events, such as those at $5,900 per head, are also given to the pope.
The pope is given many personal gifts. Some are auctioned. Others are raffled and the tickets, about $11 each, “are available for purchase online and in several areas accessible to the public, such as the Vatican Museums’ bookshop and the Vatican post office or pharmacy.” Tickets are also sold at the 6,300-seat Paul VI hall where, every Wednesday in the winter and inclement weather, Pope Francis holds his “general audience.”
That’s just some of the sources of the pope’s personal revenue we know about. But there are private donations, also. For example, it was reported during the 2012 Vatileak’s scandal that a check for ˆ100,000 made payable to Pope Benedict was found in the home of his “butler” along with other items that had been pilfered from the papal office. Since Pope Francis is immensely more popular than his predecessor, it is likely he receives more private donations.
If we know that Pope Francis’ income was at least $600 million in 2013, then in the next four years – given all the additional online requests for donations reaching millions; special events; merchandise licensing; auctions and raffles; donations from Catholic organizations and whatever additional funds are generated by his global popularity – it is not an exaggeration to estimate his income in the billions of dollars.
Of course, Pope Francis contributes to charity. But we don’t know how much or how much has been made available.
Gianluigi Nuzzi was also given confidential Vatican financial documents which included the 2013 fiscal year. That Pope Francis made only 20 percent of the Peter’s Pence collection available for the poor was disclosed in his book, Merchants in the Temple. The rest went to subsidize the Vatican bureaucracy.
Both Nuzzi’s and Fittipaldi’s books were published Nov. 5, 2015. Both men were indicted by the Vatican on Nov. 21 under Pope Francis’ new law criminalizing the disclosure of confidential Vatican information. On Nov. 30, Pope Francis said, “I gave the judges the concrete charges” as regards the upcoming trial.
In response to the journalists’ indictments, freedom-of-the-press organizations quickly criticized the Vatican and called for the criminal charges against the journalists to be withdrawn. Among them were the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Reporters Without Borders, Italy’s National Order of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Foreign Press Association in Rome, the association of reporters accredited to the Vatican (AIGAV), the National Federation of Press in Italy (FNSI) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFI).
No similar response was made by the American press.
The International Press Institute’s Director of Press Freedom Programmes, Scott Griffen, said the indictments “suggest that the Vatican is intolerant of public scrutiny.” It was noted that the Vatican “is one of only three European countries, together with Belarus and Kazakhstan, that are not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression.”
After the trial lasted eight months, the prosecution admitted it had no jurisdiction over Nuzzi and Fittipaldi.
While the Vatican Bank is forced by international financial regulators to publish annual reports in order to continue doing business globally, the Vatican voluntarily published an annual “Consolidated financial statement of the Holy See and the Governorate of Vatican City State.” This was instituted by Pope John Paul II after the damaging 1980’s Vatican Bank scandal and made available every year until now. Like the Vatican Bank statements, there was no disclosure of where assets were invested and they were not independently verified. They did, however, shed some light on incomes and expenditures.
For example, in 2011 the Peter’s Pence collection was $65.9 million; in 2012 $69.7 million. The first item to be eliminated from public disclosure by Pope Francis in the fiscal year 2013 and subsequent years 2014 and 2015 was the amount of the Peter’s Pence collection. (We know that the collection for 2013 totaled 378 million euro only because it was revealed in Fittipaldi’s book.)
A “Consolidate financial statement” for 2016 has not yet been published.
In late 2015, the Council of the Economy, a group of eight cardinals or bishops and seven lay people appointed by Pope Francis, authorized PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) to audit the Vatican’s finances “in an effort to bring accountability, transparency and international accounting standards to 136 Vatican departments.”
(An April 2015 article in Il Sole 24 Ore stated the Vatican’s assets – securities, commercial real estate and bank accounts – for all its departments and offices combined “by a conservative estimate” would be around 15-17 billion euro.)
In April 2016, the contract with PwC was suspended by order of the Secretariat of State. A statement from the Secretariat for the Economy said that “so called concerns” about the PwC audit “were only raised when auditors began asking for certain financial information and were finding it difficult to get answers.”
Two months later, the Vatican announced that PwC would no longer be responsible for a far-reaching financial audit and would, instead, be performed by the Auditor General appointed by Pope Francis. “The work of PwC would have been the first of its kind and was going to provide a complete picture of Vatican finances, including a valuation of assets … The current Auditor General is Libero Milone, a London-educated accountant who is a former chairman of Deloitte – a global accountancy firm – in Italy,” reported The Tablet.
On June 20, 2017, the Vatican said Milone resigned but gave no reason. In an interview, Milone stated, “I did not voluntarily resign, I was forced.” He said that the second highest official in the Secretariat of State told him that a “relationship of trust” with Pope Francis no longer existed and that the pope had asked for his resignation. Milone claimed “the Vatican accused him of having hired an outside firm to spy on Vatican officials.”
No replacement has been named.
The “respected” deputy director of the Vatican Bank, Giulio Mattietti, was fired two weeks ago on Nov. 27. “Some colleagues, as a sign of friendship, accompanied him on his way out.” Mattietti had been appointed, along with the director general of the bank, by Pope Francis in 2015.
Again, the Vatican provided no reason. However, “sources close to the Vatican Bank explained that there has been a breakdown of trust.” Other sources “support some connections with the dismissal of Milone.”
Neither Milone nor Matietti have been accused of any financial malfeasance. So what do a loss of a “relationship of trust” and “breakdown of trust” imply? Were either or both suspected of breaking the code of silence demanded of Vatican employees and criminalized by Pope Francis?
Immediately after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, he was asked why he broke centuries of tradition and became the first to select the name “Francis.” He said he “thought of Francis of Assisi” adding, “This is what I want, a poor Church for the poor.”
It’s time for Pope Francis to literally put his money where his mouth is. He should make his income and all Vatican finances transparent and independently verifiable.
My previous blogs on Vatican finance:
“Libero Milone’s resignation indicates that there could be a Vatileaks III.”
The Un-Reformed Vatican
With an Estimated 17B in Assets, Pope Francis Creates a Day of the Poor.
Why a Miscreant Like Cardianal Pell is Head of Vatican Finance.
Pope Francis is not anti-capitalism. By his actions, he supports the plutocracy.
The Pope’s Treasure.
Vatican Inc.’s Future Secured by Pope Francis.
The Pope Preaches to the G8 Leaders.
The Vatican and the Gold Standard.
What is the Vatican REALLY Like?