“Peter’s Pence” – an expression that appeared in medieval times – has its roots in the Gospel and the life of the first Christian communities. It was structured gradually over the centuries, especially after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, to designate the annual contribution paid to the Holy See by the sovereign states or the direct vassals of the pope.
It was a contribution that disappeared with the advent of the Protestant Reformation and the end of the feudal system. In 1870, with the fall of the Papal States and the loss of the related income, material aid began to flow to the Vatican, coming from all over Europe and abroad, giving birth to Peter’s Pence that we know today.
In 2022 – according to the report published on 30 June 2023 by the Vatican – Peter’s Pence received a total revenue of €107 million, while the expenses incurred by the fund amounted to €95.5 million.
The sources of donations are quite diverse: dioceses, private donors, religious orders, and foundations. Those received from dioceses represent 27.4 million euros (63%), followed by foundations with 12.6 million euros (29%). The United States of America was the largest contributor with €11 million (25.3%), followed by Korea (8%), Italy (6.7%), and Brazil (3.4%).
Compared to the previous year, there has been a change in the origin of donations. While the United States is still – by far – on the top step of the podium of generous donors, South Korea and Brazil have overtaken Italy and Germany, two countries marked by growing secularization.
A war treasure that the Holy See does not keep for itself: 77.6 million euros were allocated to support the works supported in the context of the pope’s mission, while 16.2 million euros were used for projects of direct assistance to the most vulnerable. These projects were distributed among 72 different countries, with African nations receiving the largest share (34% of the funds from the various projects).
A welcome transparency: remember the outcry caused in 2019 when it was revealed that part of the offerings of the faithful had been used to invest in the biopic film “Rocketman” which retraces the life of homosexual artist Elton John, as well as other products of the Hollywood sub-culture.
At the time, the Secretariat of State, which was involved in a financial scandal – the trial of which is still ongoing in the Vatican – had control over Peter’s Pence, which is no longer the case today.
The Holy See has just published its annual report on Peter’s Pence, detailing the origin of the gifts and their destination. A transparency that is paying off, since the amount of donations received by the Vatican in 2022 has more than doubled compared to the previous year.