by Viviane Hewitt in Rome AUSTERITY measures imposed in the past few years have reduced the Holy See's deficit to about £2.5 million, the commission of 12 cardinals appointed by Pope John Paul H to examine finances has reported.
Against expenditure of about £36 million, revenue from Peter's Pence In 1988 amounted to around £34 million. The Governorate of the Vatican City state was the only Vatican body to close the year in the black. Under the guidance of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, former President of the Vatican Bank, it registered income of about £52 million against expenditure of £43 million approximately.
The Vatican's biggest financial drains remain Vatican Radio and the daily newspaper Osservatore Romano which registered respective deficits of
about £10 million and £3 million.
Scheduled to meet this week to elect a president is the new administrative council of the reformed Vatican Bank, at a moment when the Institute is again being cited in fresh allegations over a 1982 financial scandal. After claims last week that a Czech bishop had attempted on the Church's behalf to "buy" papers on the scandal embroiling the Vatican, new revelations have forced the
prelate to confirm the reports (Catholic Herald, October 27).
A Sardinian businessman arrested for fraud ten days ago in Rome said Bishop Pavel Hnilica signed two cheques of about £300,000 each for the documents which vanished after the mystery death of a Milan banker found hanging under Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982.
The hanker, Roberto Calvi, was president of the fraudulent Banco Ambrosiano of which the
Vatican Bank was a major shareholder and which crashed with a £900 million debt that same year.
Calvi had asked the Vatican in vain to bail out his bank but his closest aides have always maintained the financier had written evidence of the Church's deeper involvement in the Ambrosiano affair.
In a news magazine article to be published this week, the Czech bishop is quoted as saying "I am a humble bishop who has erred in good faith".
After stating at first that blank cheques signed by him had been stolen, Bishop Hnilica now maintains that he acted "autonomously ... for the good of the Church and to defend the Vatican from unjust accusations".
But another news magazine will appear this week with further allegations suggesting that Bishop Hnilica is sacrificing himself to save others in the Vatican. The weekly Espresso will allege that a Brazilian cardinal, an Italian Jesuit and a nun, the niece of a former Vatican Bank advisor, all "negotiated" for the purchase of Roberto Calvi's secret papers.
The three names, the magazine goes on, were known to such high ranking members of the hierarchy as the Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli. He had been informed in a letter by one of the "middle men" in the hunt for the papers, Espresso claims.