from Joan Lewis
' THE VATICAN issued a characteristically tight lipped statement on its financial affairs after the first day's meeting of a new I5-member commission on Monday.
It said simply that it had heard a report from Cardinal Caprio "on the essential data regarding the budget of the Holy See": this was followed by reports by Cardinals Sin of the Philippines, Carter of Canada and Cordeiro of Pakistan, It promised another statement on Wednesday.
The last time that details of its budget deficit were revealed was in 1979 when the deficit was put at almost £10 million. Unofficial estimates say that it has doubled since then.
The 15 cardinals on the commission represent six continents and are fairly evenly divided between rich and poor countries. Some sources say that they were chosen partly at least on the basis of their countries' contribution to central Church finances.
It is not only the extent of the deficit which has been worrying Church authorities. They are also concerned about a series of irregularities which have been detected in the administration of Church funds.
Earlier this year the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works (10R), commonly called the Vatican bank. was touched by scandal when its managing director, Luigi Mennini, was arrested for fraud. Mennini's predecessor, Massimo Spada, had been similarly accused.
The 10R, headed by Bishop Paul Marcinkus of Cicero, Illinois, reputedly lost $30 million in 1975 when the financial empire Of Michael Sindona, with whom IOR had dealings, collapsed.