by Eleni Dimmler in Rome
THE Vatican has sounded the alarm again over its growing budget deficit and is calling for more contributions from the world's 840 million Catholics.
The Council of Cardinals charged with studying the Holy See's economic and organisational problems predicted on March 26 that the central church administration will be about $63 million in the red at the end of 1987.
The Council said it will send all local bishops a letter and, for the first time, a summary of the final 1985 budget "to inform them of the economic situation of the Holy See and press for fuller paticipation by local churches in the expenses." It indicated that contributions to the annual collection known as Peter's Pence will have to increase dramatically if the fund is to cover the deficit.
The Holy See's own revenues "do not cover even half of the expenses recognised as necessary for the activities of the central administration," the Council said.
It indicated that contributions to the annual collection known as Peter's Pence will have to increase considerably if that fund is to make up the difference.
The Vatican's deficit has nearly tripled since administrators started making a few basic figures public in 1980. In 1981, they began dipping in to Peter's Pence to cover the deficit, gradually took over the fund completely and now find it "far from" enough to balance the budget.
Peter's Pence brought in $32 million in 1986 but the dramatic decline in the dollar's value reduced its power when compared to the lire-based Vatican deficit.
Church leaders suspect Catholics would contribute more to Peter's Pence were it not for a basic distrust in Vatican administrators caused by the financial scandal that affected the Vatican Bank.
The Vatican's Institute for Religious Works, headed by US Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, was seriously implicated in the 1982 collapse of Italy's largest private institute, Banco Ambrosiano.
The Vatican formally denied all responsibility for the collapse but made a goodwill payment of $24 million to help repay Ambrosiano creditors.
Questioned about Archbishop Marcinkus during his plane journey to South America Pope John Paul II said, "We take the matter seriously. We are convinced that a person should not be attacked in such an exclusive and brutal way."
The Pope said the matter would be taken up with the "competent authorities".
Italian magistrates recently issued arrest warrants against Marcinkus and two of his top aides, and officials said last week they have filed a formal request that the Vatican extradite the three men to Italy.