BY VIVIANE HEWITT IN ROME AND CRISTINA ODONE CATHOLICS LN ENGLAND AND
Wales will be asked to prove their "personal devotion to the Holy Father" through donations destined to help the Holy See cover its 1994 £15 million deficit.
The Holy See will appeal to dioceses throughout the world to help cover its financial deficit. The Vatican budget figures were announced last week after a meeting of the council appointed to study the Holy See's financial problems.
The president of the Holy See's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, told the 12 cardinals on the council that the deficit resulted from a new pension scheme for some 2,000 Vatican employees.
Observers this week described the Vatican finances as "free-falling", as Holy See accountants reported a deficit estimated to grow tenfold in 12 months. Figures for 1993 are as yet unavailable, but in 1992, the debt was just £2 million.
Vatican accountants blamed the 1993 deficit increase on the new pension scheme which thE Pope approved in September 1992, and on the fluctuations in currency exchange.
Mgr Nicholas Rothon, Financial Secretary for Southwark Diocese, explained to the Catholic Herald what the practical implications for Britain's Catholics would be: "The Holy See will appeal to each diocesan bishop individually to ensure that his clergy and parishioners give generously to this special appeal. Basically, people will have to show their loyalty to the Holy Father personally and people have a great devotion to him," he said.
Past special appeals which have included find-raising for CAFOD have met with "fantastically generous" donations, according to Mgr Rothon.
"If there was a good enough reason I'm sure Catholics would contribute. People are very generous," agreed Fr Thomas Farrell, Diocesan Treasurer for the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
In a statement this week, the Vatican said that "the council hopes that these contributions will make it possible to leave untouched the Peter's Pence collection, which the Holy Father wants to dedicate to pastoral and charity activities in various parts of the world."
Peter's Pence is the annual collection which parishes donate to the Pope on 29 June and which dates back 12 centuries. The collection totalled almost £30 million in 1992. The collection is traditionally destined for overseas missions and other Catholic charities.
At the Catholic Media Office, Kevin Thomas said: "There is a degree of inevitability about the Holy See asking for more money. How the response for that will be organised still needs to be seen."
"I wouldn't know what to predict we've never been asked to contribute directly. The decision wouldn't be made at diocesan level. It's an opinion for the national hierarchy," said Anthony Hurley, accountant for the Archdiocese of Cardiff.
The Vatican said it would ease its 1994 deficit with expected profits of £3 million from the Vatican City budget. The main sources of income for Vatican City are its Museums, publishing house, and post office.
The Holy See's budget covers the Catholic Church's central administration, its diplomatic missions plus its newspaper and radio station. Income mainly comes from investments, real estate holdings in Italy and contributions from the faithful.