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Pope warns priests to stop charging for weddings and funerals

by Premier Journalist

Pope Francis has issued a warning to priests who continue to charge for hosting weddings and funerals. The Vatican said priests must not "commercialise masses" or"give the impression that the celebration of the Sacraments... are subject to tariffs". 

It is common for Italian priests to expect donations to their church for masses and specific ceremonial services, but it increasingly churches are listing prices for each event, causing the Vatican to step in. Some churchgoers have said they've experienced priests requesting money to allow a divorce. 

"Our priest asked for 300 euros for the wedding. We gave 400, as it expected that you give more than asked," one newlywed explained to The Local, noting that this was "not at all unusual".

The Vatican has issued new guidance on the matter, noting that "an offering, by its very nature, must be a free act on the part of the one offering... not a 'price to pay' or a 'fee to exact', as if dealing with a sort of 'tax'." 

The high seat of the Catholic Church added that it "earnestly recommends" Italian priests celebrate mass "even if they have not received an offering".

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the closure of museums and the cancelling of events, the Vatican has revealed that its income is down 45 per cent as a result. In April, the Vatican City State Administration requested “a drastic cut in the expenses for consultancies” and for the “suspension, whenever possible, of fixed-term contracts" in a bid to cut costs and balance the budget sheet. 

The administration said it had already placed a “freeze on hiring and promotions". The Vatican employs about 5,000 people, split between the Vatican City State administration and the Holy See.

In May, Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, S.J., the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Finances, insisted that the Vatican was "not at risk of default" but that the world's smallest independent state "certainly has difficult years ahead". 

"The church carries out its mission with the help of the offerings of the faithful," Alves explained, "and we do not know how much the people can give.”

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