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The Vatican closed out 2020 with a deficit of 66.3 million euros (US$78 million), which was better than projected and even lower than pre-pandemic 2019, according to figures released Saturday.

The Vatican’s economy minister, the Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, credited lower spending and a milder-than-expected drop in revenues for the results.

The shortfall was narrower than the range forecast by the Vatican, which was between 68 million euros and 146 million euros. It was also lower than the 79.2-million-euro deficit recorded in 2019.

Guerrero said the Vatican cut expenses in the face of the pandemic, focusing on essentials like salaries, aid to churches in difficulty and the poor. To save money, the Vatican reduced travel and events spending by three-quarters, postponed maintenance and cut back on consultancy services, while Vatican diplomats tightened their belts. Taxes remained a constant 18.8 million euros.

Revenues came in just five per cent lower than the pre-pandemic projection of 269 million euros.

“We are waiting to see if this trend continues in 2021,” Guerrero told Vatican media.

Donations rose slightly to 56.2 million euros ($66 million). Even so, Guerrero noted that the Peter’s Pence donations, offered during an annual collections at Mass, fell 18 per cent in 2020. They are billed as a concrete way to help the pope in his works of charity but are also used to run the Holy See bureaucracy. Many churches conducted virtual Masses in 2020 due to the pandemic.

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