Pope Francis has moved to eliminate free rent for cardinals and subsidized rents for other senior Vatican officials, saying they too have to contribute to cost savings.
The new rules were summarised in a note written by Maximino Caballero Ledo, a Spanish layman who heads the Vatican’s finance ministry. They stemmed from a meeting he had with the pope last month.
It was posted in the Vatican’s central courtyard with no fanfare and a senior Vatican official confirmed its contents to Reuters on Tuesday.
Until now cardinals who live in Vatican-owned apartments, either inside the city-state or its surroundings in Rome, have lived rent-free. They pay for their utilities and staff-related expenses.
Some of the cardinals are retired and receiving pensions.
Bishops and other Vatican managers currently pay subsidized rents. The new rules apply to the senior management levels of clergy and lay people, such as presidents and the second and third-ranking officials in Vatican departments.
There was no indication in the note that lower-level Vatican employees, most of whom are lay people, would see their benefits cut. Some of them pay below-market rents in Vatican-owned apartments in Rome.
Caballero Ledo’s note, known as a rescriptum, says the pope decided that the officials have to “make an extraordinary sacrifice” in order to increase income flows and see to it that as much money as possible goes to the mission of the Church.
It said Francis had abrogated all past subsidies and that Vatican-own apartments should be rented out to senior officials at the same rates that apply to renters with no connection to the Vatican.
It was not clear how the new rents would be calculated, particularly for apartments inside the walls of the Vatican, where buildings are centuries old and some are decorated with frescoes.
All exceptions to the new rules would have to be personally approved by the pope, the note said.
Two top Vatican prelates, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said they were puzzled by the new rules, particularly as many bishops and priests working in the Vatican receive lower salaries than some of their counterparts in other countries.
Two years ago, Francis ordered cardinals to take a 10% pay cut and reduced the salaries of other clerics working in the Vatican in order to save jobs of employees as the coronavirus pandemic hit the Holy See’s income.
That provision also was aimed at top-tier officials and did not affect most Vatican employees.