VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis promised Vatican employees on Monday that none of them will lose their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely damaged Vatican finances.
“You are the most important thing here. No one is to left out, no one will lose their jobs,” Francis told workers and their children at a special audience held to exchange Christmas greetings.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the Vatican’s finances, forcing it to dip into reserve funds and implement some of the toughest cost-control measures ever in the tiny city-state.
“No one should suffer from the ugly economic effects of this pandemic…We have to work harder to resolve this problem, which is not easy. There is no magic wand. We have to move forward as in the same family,” Francis said in improvised remarks.
Lay employees work in all of the Vatican’s administrative departments and also as gardeners, firefighters, police, maintenance workers and in its world-famous museums.
The pandemic has drastically slowed the flow of funds from the Vatican Museums, which received some 7 million visitors last year and amount to the city’s most reliable cash cow.
The museums, which generate an estimated $100 million yearly, closed for three months in the spring during the first wave of the pandemic, reopened for a limited number of visitors during the summer, and closed again as a second wave hit Italy.
Earlier this year, top Vatican administrators ordered a freeze on promotions and hirings and a ban on overtime, travel and large events in an attempt to contain costs.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)