Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter's… (Alessandra Tarantino /…)
The Roman Catholic Church is tightening its belt. Vatican employees will not get bonuses that are traditionally handed out upon the election of a new pope, a spokesman told reporters Thursday.
The last time a pope was replaced, Vatican employees were reportedly granted 1,500 euros each (close to $2,000 at the current rate of exchange), including payments upon the death of one pope and at the selection of a new one. This time, “it didn't seem possible or appropriate to burden the Vatican's budget with a considerable, unforeseen extra expense,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Associated Press.
The decision was handed down by the newly elected Pope Francis, whose habits of cooking his own meals and taking the bus earned him a reputation for simplicity as archbishop of Buenos Aires. After his election last month, the pope again made news by picking up his luggage and settling his own bill at the Rome residence where he had been staying, a small act underscoring his rejection of excess.
“How I would like a poor church for the poor,” Francis told journalists after he was chosen.
The church is already somewhat poorer than it might want to be: Last year the Vatican reported it suffered a shortfall of nearly $20 million in 2011, which it blamed on “the negative trend of global financial markets.” Its biggest expenditures were staff and communications, it said.
However, Lombardi told Religion News Service that the decision was not tied to the Vatican's economic woes. He said the pope ordered Vatican officials to instead draw money from his personal charity budget for “charitable organizations,” in a show of attention to those suffering from global economic turmoil.
Francis decided to end the bonuses nearly a week after choosing a task force charged with reforming the Vatican administration, which could result in significant changes in how it is run.
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