Pope Francis as a mother-in-law: no more ‘cheap’ rents.

Pope Francis signs a Rescriptum concerning Holy See housing rents

On Monday 13 February 2023, the Pontiff received the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Economy, Maximino Caballero Ledo. Francis signed a Rescriptum, the umpteenth of his Pontificate. The Pope spoke on the “properties owned by the Curial Institutions and Entities that refer to the Holy See included in the list attached to the Statute of the Council for the Economy, including the Domus”.

As we have pointed out in this article, in fact, Francis is governing as a Jesuit provincial would, and his actions are always guided by prejudices and resentment that he has carried with him since he was in Buenos Aires. Now the news: no ‘housing subsidy’ and no ‘favourable price’ leases.

The results Francis hoped for will not come. To confirm this, we can look at what has happened in Via della Conciliazione. Since Bergoglio was elected, all the shopkeepers have fled and closed their businesses. Prices have become exorbitant and people cannot afford rents like those offered by the Pope’s collaborators. Now, however, the choice has been made to also hit those who are part of the ‘family’. In essence, the coffers of clerics are also being hit. Not only are there presbyters, bishops and the cardinals themselves, who have held and hold positions with laughable salaries, but now they will no longer even have favourable prices on rents.

Just like a good mother-in-law, therefore, Francis does the accounts in his collaborators’ pockets. In the Rescriptum one can read: ‘to cope with the growing commitments that the fulfilment of service to the Universal Church and to the needy requires in an economic context such as the present one, of particular gravity’. The Pontiff has exchanged the Holy See for an NGO or Caritas Internationalis and continues to cut funds to all but himself. Rather than hiring lay leaders and paying them tens of thousands of euros a month, the Pope could think, not always, but at least occasionally, about his role as Vicar of Christ.

In order to cope with the huge financial problems, Bergoglio might start thinking about moving back to the Apostolic Palace and leaving Santa Marta free. In fact, for the past ten years, the accounts of the Domus have been in the red. Or, will Francis pay for the accommodation with his salary? 

The fact that Bergoglio was a “room rental”, as a prelate reported this morning, we had already learnt from the same account by His Excellency Most Reverend Monsignor Georg Gänswein, who, in his book “Nient’altro che la Verità”, recounted how the Pontiff kicked him out of the Apostolic Palace to make room for his friends:

“When my predecessor, Monsignor Harvey, became Cardinal Archpriest of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, he decided to move into the basilica complex, but it was necessary to renovate the residence. So he asked me to stay for a few more months in the prefect’s flat and I obviously had no difficulty. However, the work took longer than expected and it was only three years later that he returned the keys to the Governorate. After some minor finishing work, in mid-2016 the then secretary general Fernando Vérgez Alzaga told me that I could take possession, so I began to organise the removal of my things, which until then I had left in the prefect’s office in Castel Gandolfo, on the ground floor of Villa Barberini.

On the morning of 22 July 2016 I was waiting as usual for Pope Francis at San Damaso, where you take the Nobile lift. He got out of the car and immediately said to me: ‘I heard that you have the flat in the Apostolic Palace’. I specified that it was the flat of the Prefect of the Papal Household, temporarily assigned to me for reasons of office. “Please do not take possession of it now,” he added. When I informed him that it was normal for the prefect to reside there, so that he could carry out his task well – since, although I was living in the monastery with the Pope Emeritus at the time, this was still a temporary residence – he replied: “Wait, first I must speak with my close collaborators; do nothing until you receive an answer from me”. This displeased me because I sensed that there was someone behind it who was manoeuvring to take possession of that flat.

The following 2 September, on the same occasion, the Pontiff told me: “You were waiting for an answer from me and now I am telling you to leave it alone. When you need a flat I will take care of it’. To my expression of great astonishment, he explained that it had been pointed out to him that the Secretary of State (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) and the deputy of the First Section for General Affairs (Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu at the time) lived in the Apostolic Palace, but not the Secretary of the Second Section for Relations with States. He concluded firmly: ‘I have decided’; and indeed, some time later, I saw that Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher had indeed moved into that flat.

In 2018, however, I thought it appropriate to remind Pope Francis of his promise, so that he made arrangements with Monsignor Vérgez and in the end I was assigned a flat in the old Santa Marta, bordering on the Paul VI Hall. The physical removal from the Apostolic Palace was however a foretaste of later developments”.

In the Rescript, the Pope writes: ‘any exception to these regulations must be directly authorised by me’. Never would we have expected that in the Vatican, the monarch would even allocate ‘rooms’ to his collaborators. Surely these exceptions will include rooms for the rapist Oscar Zanchetta and the “great economist” Oscar Maradiaga.


Silere non possum 

Article published on 28 February 2023

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