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Pope’s charity fund up, but still below pre-Covid levels

Pope Francis' charity fund got a boost from the faithful last year, as the Vatican published new data, part of the pontiff's push for transparency following various financial scandals.

Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience on June 15, 2022 at St. Peter’s square in The Vatican. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Pope Francis’ charity fund got a boost from the faithful last year, as the Vatican published new data, part of the pontiff’s push for transparency following various financial scandals.

The Vatican said that Peter’s Pence — the fund that collects donations from the faithful for charitable missions and activities of the Holy See — amounted to 46.9 million euros ($48.8 million) in 2021, but remained shy of pre-Covid levels.

The financial overview of Peter’s Pence is part of an ongoing effort by Francis to clean up the finances of the Vatican, which has been rocked in recent years by a series of scandals including bad investments and financial irregularities.

A major fraud and money-laundering case against 10 defendants including a cardinal — once the number two at the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State — is ongoing.

Last year for the first time, the Holy See included Peter’s Pence within the annual budget.

In 2020, when the Covid crisis erupted worldwide, the fund was 44 million euros, far below the 53.9 million euros in 2019.

The Church’s 1.3 billion Catholics around the world have been contributing less and less in recent years, with the fund decreasing 23 percent between 2015 and 2019, a Vatican official said last year.

The document published Thursday breaks out the donations received in more detail, including country of origin and how they were spent.

It also shows the fund spent 65.3 million euros, representing a deficit of 18.4 percent, which it said had been “funded by its patrimony”.

While the bulk of the fund went towards the Church’s “Apostolic Mission”, only 9.8 million euros went to direct assistance “to those most in need” including the poor, children and elderly, victims of natural disasters and war and migrants.

It also includes funding to poor dioceses and religious institutes and for Catholic education.

Donations to Peter’s Pence come from dioceses, foundations, private donors and religious orders.

Excluding religious orders and foundations, most donations came from the United States, at 29.3 percent, followed by Italy at 11.3 percent, and Germany at 5.2 percent.

Peter’s Pence was linked to a scandal dating back nearly a decade involving the Vatican’s disastrous investment in a London luxury property — with at least some of the money coming from the charitable fund.

In late 2020, Francis stripped oversight of the fund from the powerful Secretariat of State, giving it to a different body instead.

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