Once again, in light of some widely reported decisions taken by the Holy Father, many people are questioning and discussing the economic resources available to Vatican institutions and their proper administration in the service of the Church’s mission.
This article intends to place recent events in a wider context, so that the Holy Father’s guidance and decisions may be better understood.
The Lateran Treaty and the new Vatican City State
The historical context will be useful. Without going back to the former Papal States and the consequences of the breach of Porta Pia, it must be acknowledged that in terms of economic management the pontificate of Pius XI, with the Lateran Treaty and the constitution of the Vatican City State, remains fundamental.
In 1926, Pius XI decisively amalgamated in the new “Administration of the Assets of the Holy See” various pre-existing administrative offices. It managed the buildings belonging to the Holy See after 1870, paid the employees of the various departments and provided for sundry expenses.
Then, with the Lateran Treaty and the attached Financial Convention between Italy and the Holy See, the pontiff found himself with a large sum of compensation paid by Italy to the Church. Of this, he invested more or less one third in the construction and organization of the new small Vatican City State, another third to rebuild the nunciatures and apostolic delegations abroad, and the rest to constitute a patrimony under papal control.
The management of the sum was entrusted by Pius XI to an expert and prudent man he fully trusted, Bernardino Nogara, appointed Delegate for the new Special Administration of the Holy See, more concisely called “La Speciale.” Nogara conducted a policy of diversified investments, in bonds, shares and real estate in a number of different countries (Switzerland, Paris, London and elsewhere), so as not to depend too much on the Italian situation. Generally, Nogara’s economic action has been considered scrupulous and wise, even if, as always, there has been no lack of differing judgments on such complex matters.