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 CNS Story:

VATICAN-BUDGET Jul-12-2006 (770 words) xxxi

Despite papal transition, Vatican shows $12 million surplus for 2005

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite the $8.9 million of extraordinary expenses related to the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican closed its 2005 budget with a surplus of more than $12 million, officials said.

Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, presented the 2005 consolidated budget figures at a July 12 press conference.

The cardinal did not provide figures for total Vatican income and total Vatican expenses at the press conference, but promised to provide the figures later.

Improved exchange rates and higher interest on Vatican investments helped give the Vatican its healthiest bottom line in eight years, the cardinal said. He said the Vatican's investment sector closed with a profit of $55 million compared to a profit of only $7.7 million in 2004.

Listed under "other income and expenses" in the 2005 budget were the $8.9 million in "costs sustained" during the papal transition.

Cardinal Sebastiani said a large part of the expense was the traditional extra pay given to Vatican employees on the occasion of a pope's death and again after the election of a new pope. In addition, the expenses included extra security, employee overtime and temporary modifications of the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.

However, he said, because of the millions of extra visitors, the papal transition had a positive impact on the budgets of the Vatican bookstore and printing press, the Vatican stamp and coin office and the Vatican Museums.

The budget figures were reviewed July 4 by members of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.

The cardinals are given two separate budget reports: the budget of the Holy See, including the Roman Curia, Vatican diplomatic missions around the world, Vatican media outlets and Vatican investments; and the budget of Vatican City State, including the post office and Vatican Museums.

In addition, the cardinals were given the results of the 2005 Peter's Pence collection, which is not part of the budget since the money is used by the pope for charity, disaster relief and aid to churches in developing countries.

The 2005 collection brought in $59.4 million, an increase of $7.7 million over 2004.

Archbishop Franco Croci, secretary of the Vatican accounting office, said 29 percent of the collection came from Catholics in the United States. Catholics in Italy and Germany were the second- and third-largest donors.

The donations that are included in the Vatican budget figures are those made by bishops' conferences, dioceses, religious orders, organizations, foundations and individuals to offset the costs of running the Curia. In 2005, the donations totaling $93.3 million marked a slight decrease from the previous year.

Archbishop Croci said a full 33 percent of the donations came from dioceses, groups and individuals in the United States.

The list of the top 10 donor countries continues with Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, Korea, Mexico and Austria, he said.

One major jump in the Vatican expenses was in the sector of personnel costs, which rose from $129.3 million in 2004 to $154.3 million in 2005.

Paolo Trombetta, the Vatican's chief accountant, said the bulk of the increase is the result of a structured billing of individual Vatican offices for their portion of the Vatican's forecast pension debt.

The back payments to the Vatican pension fund, established by Pope John Paul II in 2004, will be spread out over 10 years, he said. Because the fund has its own administrative council and includes employee contributions, Trombetta said he could not say what the fund's current value is.

Vatican Radio, which accepts no advertising, and the Vatican newspaper, which accepts very little, are traditional drains on Vatican revenues.

One day after he was appointed director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who also serves as general director of Vatican Radio, told reporters the radio is working on reducing its deficit, which amounted to $29.9 million in 2005.

He said the radio was committed to reducing its staff from 395 employees to 335 by 2013, primarily by not replacing retiring workers whose jobs can be handled easily by others with the help of new technology.

As for advertising, he said the question was not only "ideological," but practical as well. Advertisers want to know how many people they will reach in a targeted geographic area, information Vatican Radio does not have for its programs broadcast in more than 40 languages around the world.

END


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