VATICAN CITY — The Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy has said that two recently released books, each containing leaked Vatican financial information, make “false and misleading claims” concerning both “management of expenditure” and “expenditure incurred” by the Secretariat’s Prefect, Cardinal George Pell.
In a press statement released on Thursday evening Rome-time, the Secretariat corrects allegations made in the two new books, Avarice: The Papers That Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis, by Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi; and Via Crucis, by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
The statement also seeks to dispel any doubts “about the commitment of Cardinal Pell to cost management and control” noting that “the Secretariat completed the year well below its 2014 Budget and was one of the very few entities to propose a reduction in total expenditure in its 2015 Budget submission.”
Here below is full text of the Secretariat’s press statement:
PRESS STATEMENT FROM A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY
The recently released books appear to have included false and misleading claims about the management of expenditure by Cardinal Pell and the expenditure incurred by the Secretariat throughout 2014. These matters were addressed in a Statement issued earlier this year which does not appear to have been mentioned by the authors. It is attached for reference [see below].
Key facts about the 500,000 Euro expenditure in 2014 that has been reported include:
1. In the period between March 2014 (when the Secretariat was established) and December 2014, operational costs, including initial set up costs for furniture and computers as well as salaries were incurred.
2. Salaries and related costs accounted for 292,000 Euro.
3. The net costs of air travel by staff of the Secretariat for these 9 months was less than 4000 Euro, considerably less than many other entities.
4. 2500 Euros was spent on acquiring vestments and altar cloths for the Chapel in the Secretariat office so that staff could come together in prayer and for the celebration of Holy Mass.
5. 16000 Euro was spent in travel and accommodation by advisors working on a project for the C9.
6. A Vatican apartment was secured for one senior staff member from abroad on a term contract. It is anticipated this asset will continue to be used by the Secretariat for many years as it provides a less expensive option of accommodating international experts on long term placement than alternatives at one of the Domus’ or in expensive hotels.
7. Consistent with the practice at the time, the Secretariat was not consulted prior to APSA awarding contracts. The Secretariat was not asked to provide specific approval of each cost item prior to making a commitment – these practices have now changed. Expenditure by the Secretariat now requires the explicit approval of the relevant manager before costs can be incurred.
Finally and for the avoidance of doubt about the commitment of Cardinal Pell to cost management and control, the Secretariat completed the year well below its 2014 Budget and was one of the very few entities to propose a reduction in total expenditure in its 2015 Budget submission.
Here below are the prior statements mentioned above:
Statement by Spokesperson for the Secretariat for the Economy
Reports of a discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about expenditure by the Secretariat are completely false – there has been no discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about such matters. Claims of a conversation are a complete fiction.
Since March 2014 when the Secretariat was initiated, the operational costs of the Secretariat, which include some initial set up costs, were in fact below the budget set when the office was established.
The Secretariat currently has twelve staff working on implementing new financial management routines to improve transparency and accountability. The Secretariat will shortly present to the Council for the Economy the Audited Financial Statements for 2014. This will include a detailed account of all Vatican entities, including the Secretariat for the Economy.
We attach the statement by the Holy See about this matter.
Finally and for the record, Cardinal Pell does not have a Cappa Magna.
Vatican Statement on L’Espresso articles
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has responded to a collection of articles published in the Italian weekly L’Espresso. The articles purport to show internal struggles within the Vatican on ongoing economic reforms.
“Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal,” Father Lombardi said. “The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”
Father Lombardi continued, “The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty. And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the Secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets.
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.