In recent weeks, Vatican staff have become increasingly fearful about possible redundancies as part of a spending review at the Holy See.
Concerns have been present for the past year, but worsened when Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a letter Feb. 13 to heads of Vatican departments, notifying them of an immediate end to new hires, wage increases, and overtime in an urgent effort to cut costs and offset budget shortfalls.
The letter also said volunteers could be used to help provide for any labor shortages and that some temporary workers will not have their contracts renewed when their terms are up.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has sought to allay the concerns, sending this response to questions I'd sent him on the issue:
“Response to the questions on directives pertaining to economic savings
The [Feb. 13] letter from the Secretary of State should be read carefully and must be interpreted with wisdom. Thus may we avoid raising concerns that are not truly justified.
The starting point is the difficult overall economic situation, from which even the Vatican is not exempt (as seen from this year’s budget) and which causes the Superiors to take action and give clear signals in order to keep the situation under control, for the good of the mission of the Church and for the good of the working community as a whole, and its individual members.
The measures indicated are intended precisely to avoid all that is not strictly necessary for the carrying out of the mission, and which can therefore be saved without serious damage. There is no hiding the fact that this may involve sacrifices.
The letter is presented as a transitional provision ("pending further decision"), and in many places contains expressions that give space for a reasonable assessment of the various situations. It speaks, for example, of “specific needs that must be documented carefully”, of “proven and documented needs”, and so on.
Certainly the Pope does not want people to be “laid off”, with serious consequent problems for them and for their families. Indeed, the stated purpose of the letter is to “ensure the maintenance of the entire working community at the service of the Holy Father and the universal Church”.
Situations regarding “fixed” contracts vary both between different Vatican bodies, and naturally also in individual cases. It may be noted that certain special Regulations provide that “assumption” into a role be preceded by a period of employment with fixed-term contracts.
From my information one may assess that, all told, such contracts number around 300, including the Governorate, APSA, institutions “affiliated” with the Holy See such as the media, and so on. The majority persons thus hired, although not yet registered as being “in role”, in reality occupy posts that are foreseen in the establishment plans, and perform functions that cannot be eliminated without causing serious damage to the service these entities provide. Therefore, their situations are be viewed with care and responsibility, and one should not think that these contracts will be suspended once their term has expired. Naturally the case is different when dealing with hiring that is of a clearly temporary nature, which in any case would not have been renewed (eg. replacements for staff on maternity leave, etc ...).
In conclusion, the very Authorities from which the savings directive comes are aware of the issues that it raises, and intend to address them with responsibility and care for the people involved, and their families, knowing that this is the mind of the Pope. At the same time, they call on the responsible intermediaries and all members of the working community to realize the seriousness of the situation and the commitment that is necessary to address it with realism, determination and foresight.
Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, March 11th, 2014”