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Pope eliminates special housing benefits for Roman Curia officials

Topshots – Pope Francis serious look

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Pope Francis General Audience March 30, 2016

Hugues Lefèvre - Anna Kurian - published on 03/01/23

In order to devote more resources to the Holy See's mission, cardinals and Curia officials will no longer receive special prices on housing.

Cardinals and Roman Curia officials will no longer receive preferential rates or free housing from the Vatican. Pope Francis made this decision in a rescript dated February 13, 2023, made public by Vatican News only on March 1.

The text, signed by Maximino Caballero Ledo, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, abrogates all provisions “enacted by anyone and at any time” that allowed cardinals, heads of dicasteries, secretaries, undersecretaries, and executives to use the real estate of the Holy See “freely or under special favorable conditions.” 

The Pope also forbids them from receiving any housing assistance from the Holy See, in any amount or form. The entities that own the properties will therefore have to apply the normal rates to all. Any exception to the rule must be authorized by the Pontiff. 

This new provision comes into effect immediately and also concerns the prelates of the Roman Rota Court and those of the priestly residences managed by the Domus Vaticanae (Domus Santa Marta, Domus Romana Sacerdotalis – known as “Traspontina” – Domus Internationalis Paul VI, and Casa San Benedetto). 

However, the rescript does not apply retroactively: Contracts stipulated before the date of its entry into force will continue until their expiration. Their renewal will then be subject to the new guidelines. Housing and grant applications submitted after December 31, 2022, and not yet finalized will have to comply with the rescript. 

The document, posted in the Vatican’s St. Damasus courtyard, explains that at a time when the economic situation is “of particular gravity,” the Pope is asking for this “extraordinary sacrifice” to improve the revenue from the real estate patrimony and devote more resources to the Holy See’s mission

Fewer and fewer prerogatives for cardinals

This measure comes in the wake of another decision made by Pope Francis in March 2021. Due to the Vatican’s financial situation, worsened by the pandemic, he decided to reduce the cardinals’ salaries by 10% and those of the superiors and heads of dicasteries by 8%.

Vatican journalist Ines San Martin published an article in 2016 explaining that a cardinal in Rome received a salary of 5000 euros per month. After the 2021 reform, cardinals would receive 4500 euros for life. Currently 22 cardinals work for the Vatican in Rome. 

This papal rescript is part of the slow cultural change that has taken place since the Second Vatican Council – and in particular due to the work of Pope Paul VI – regarding the status of cardinals. In the Lateran Accords, signed in 1929 with the Italian state, it said that all cardinals in Italy should enjoy “the honors due to the princes of blood.”

Pope Francis instead advocates for Curia officials to be an example in terms of their lifestyle. He in fact chose to live in a 753 sq ft apartment (70m2) at the residence Santa Marta in the Vatican

In 2014, a controversy erupted over the size of the apartment of the then Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, as well as the cost of renovating his home. According to the Italian press at the time, the matter had exasperated the Argentine Pontiff.  

CardinalsFinancePope FrancisRoman CuriaVatican
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