Pope cuts pay for cardinals as Vatican finances hit by pandemic

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image captionThe Vatican's income has plummeted during the pandemic

Pope Francis has ordered pay cuts for cardinals and other clerics as the Vatican battles to balance its books during the pandemic.

Cardinals will see their pay reduced by 10% from April, the Vatican said.

They are believed to receive up to €5,000 (£4,300; $5,900) a month and often live in subsidised accommodation.

The Vatican expects a deficit of €50m this year. Its income has been badly hit by the closure of museums and other attractions in the pandemic.

The Pope has previously said that he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times.

In an apostolic letter on Wednesday (in Italian), the Vatican said that Francis had issued a decree introducing proportional cuts starting on 1 April.

Priests and other clerics will see their salaries cut by between 3% and 8% and planned salary increases will be suspended until March 2023.

"An economically sustainable future today requires, among other decisions, the adoption of measures concerning staff salaries," the letter read.

It said action was being taken "following the health emergency caused by the spread of Covid-19 which negatively affected all sources of income of the Holy See and the Vatican City State".

The Holy See is the governing body of the Roman Catholic Church.

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image captionPope Francis has sought to make the Vatican's finances more transparent

The letter added that cuts were being made "with the aim of safeguarding current jobs".

Correspondents say it is the jobs of lay workers that the Pope is trying to protect.

Many cardinals based at the Vatican either live there or in large apartments in Rome at below market rents. Many priests and nuns working at the Vatican live in religious communities that give them greater protection from economic slumps.

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image captionMany cardinals at the Vatican live in subsidised accommodation

On the other hand, the Vatican's lay employees such as police, cleaners and maintenance personnel, live in Rome and face higher living expenses.

A Vatican spokesman quoted by Reuters said most lay employees would not be affected by the cuts.

The popular tourist destinations of St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums were closed or only partially open for much of last year because of the pandemic.

The Vatican had hoped to reopen the museums this month but a new lockdown across Italy means they must stay closed.

Earlier this month, the Vatican's top economic official warned that the Holy See might have to use €40m in reserves for the second year running as a result of the pandemic. Revenues for this year are expected to be down 30% from 2020.

Last year, the Pope issued a new law designed to boost transparency in the Vatican's financial deals. It followed a string of scandals at the Vatican bank and claims of mismanagement.

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