Pope Francis Cuts Free and Discounted rent for Cardinals, Vatican Managers

Pope Francis has cut housing perks for Vatican managers and cardinals in order to save the Church money.

Newsroom (3/03/2023 10:05 AM, Gaudium Press) —  Reuters and Vatican News reported on March 1 that cardinals and other high-level positions at the Vatican will no longer be able to live in Vatican-connected apartments for free or at special prices.

The Vatican owns an extensive amount of real estate both in and outside the Vatican walls. Apartments are principally managed by APSA (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

The pope’s decision to drop housing benefits for upper management was communicated in a note from the Vatican’s new prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Maximino Caballero Ledo. The note, called a “rescriptum ex audientia,” was posted in the San Damaso Courtyard inside Vatican City, according to Reuters.

The rescript, which was posted in the Vatican following a Feb. 13 meeting with Pope Francis, says housing perks for high-level Vatican officials are being cut to meet the growing needs of the Church in an economic context “of particular gravity.”

Ledo’s note asks “everyone to make an extraordinary sacrifice to allocate more resources to the mission of the Holy See, also by increasing revenue from the management of the real estate patrimony.”

The decision comes two years after Pope Francis announced he was cutting cardinals’ salaries by 10% in March 2021.

The pay of other high-ranking officials and employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State was reduced by 8%, and some clergy and religious employed by the Vatican had their salaries lowered by 3%.

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Automatic raises for some Vatican officials and employees were also suspended for two years. That measure is due to expire on March 31.

According to the new housing decision, rental agreements already in course will be allowed to continue until their expiry.

New rental agreements will have to be offered at full price.

Only Pope Francis can grant exceptions to the new policy, the rescript says.

Cardinals, dicastery heads, presidents, secretaries, undersecretaries, managers, and auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota are all affected by the new housing policy.

The Santa Marta guest house where Pope Francis lives, as well as two other Rome guest houses that regularly host priests serving at the Vatican, will also need to comply with the change.

The current cardinal’s stipend is 4,500 euros per month, available to cardinals living in Rome.

The rescript did not specify how a fair market rent for a property within Vatican City would be determined, or who would be expected to rent one if not a Vatican City resident or employee.

But many Vatican-owned buildings in Rome have apartments rented to private individuals without any connection to the Vatican, which would likely provide a basis for comparison.

Reaction to the rescript

Sources close to the Secretariat for the Economy said that the decision has encountered considerable resistance from curial departments, which argued that open-market rates for some grace-and-favor apartments used by cardinals and other officials could amount to nearly all of their salary in some cases.

But, one official lamented, “that is how serious the situation is.”

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“Every asset of the Holy See has to be put to work,” they said, “there is no other way.”

An official in one curial department said that the policy had also been opposed as interference with the internal workings of dicasteries.

While the Holy See owns several buildings in both Vatican City and Rome, many others are actually owned directly by curial departments themselves, after they were bequeathed to the Church over centuries to support a specific department, like the Dicastery for the Evangelization.

Some dicastery heads have argued in recent weeks that the use of those properties, including for the housing of senior staff, should fall under the direct supervision of the departments themselves and not subject to policies set by the Secretariat for the Economy.

– Raju Hasmukh with files from CNA and The Pillar

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