FHE Holy See could be heading for another spell of industrial unrest following a suggestion by Vatican administrators that curia offices "employ" volunteers to boost the workforce at no extra cost to the church.
The proposal came in a circular letter to the Roman curia from Cardinal Jose Castillo Lara, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apolistic See (APSA).
According to the circular, "young people, pensioners, students and anyone else wishing to lend a tangible hand in the city of the Pope" should be recruited.
Unofficial sources at APSA said that Cardinal Lara had envisaged volunteers would enable the Holy See to "double its workforce without spending a lira".
The recruitment drive would also be open to conscientious objectors — male school-leavers obliged to serve one year's military duty. They are already "employed" by Catholic lay and charity associations in Italy for the duration of their conscription period.
The APSA source added that administrators had devised the controversial scheme with Vatican Radio in mind because the world's biggest radio station is responsible for an estimated 35 per cent of the Vatican's running deficit.
If curia offices follow Cardinal Lara's suggestion, new protests are likely from the approximately 1,5 0 0 lay employees in the Vatican City who fear the plan also includes lay-offs.
Their trade union, the Association of Lay Vatican Employees (ADLV), has engaged in a series of disputes with the hierarchy over pay and conditions in the past five years. Their protest action last year included a silent march through the Vatican City to the courtyard below the windows of the private papal apartments.