THE Vatican has asked Brazil for an additional €30.3m to help cover an expected shortfall in funding for the visit of the Pope to Rio de Janeiro later this month, according to reports.
Pope Francis will make his first international trip to the world's largest Catholic country for the World Youth Day celebrations to be held between July 23 and 28. A shortage in the expected millions of pilgrims – whose contributions are part-funding the cost – led to the Vatican identifying a black hole of up to €51m, according to Brazilian media.
But Brazil's federal, state and city officials in Rio de Janeiro, who have already committed at least €46.7m of public money to the €117m event, are said to have refused to contribute any more.
It is understood that recent mass protests across Brazil – in which more than a million people demonstrated against the lack of investment in public services compared with the Pope's visit, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics – may have played a part in the decision.
The plan was for pilgrims, who had been expected to number up to 2 million, to fund up to 70pc of the costs ,with registration fees of between €36 and €205, according to Brazil's 'O Globo' newspaper.
But, so far, only about 320,000 pilgrims have registered, with government officials indicating that they now may only be expecting less than half the initial estimate.
According to government sources, Vatican officials met Eduardo Paes, the Rio city mayor, Sergio Cabral, the Rio state governor, and Gilberto Carvalho, President Dilma Rousseff's chief of staff, on Friday and requested that each provide an extra €10.3m in funding.
The meeting was on Mr Carvalho's daily agenda and the Rio state government also confirmed that it took place, but would not comment on its contents.
The Archdiocese of Rio denied that the event was in financial difficulties.
By a quirk of fate, the news came on the same day that the Vatican released a rare bit of good news on its finances, announcing that it had posted a $2.2m (€1.7m) budget surplus in 2012.
However, figures released showed donations to "Peter's Pence", a special collection taken up each year for use by the Pope, dropped by nearly 12pc in 2012.
The fall coincided with the year the Vatican was hit by a leaks scandal and the arrest of former Pope Benedict's butler.
The surplus of $2.2m in 2012 was due "mainly to good performance in financial management", according to the statement, released following two days of meetings by Vatican officials, some attended by Pope Francis, to review the financial situation.
The Vatican budget includes costs for the running of the Catholic Church's central administration, known as the Holy See, and its embassies around the world.
The main costs in the budget are its 2,823 personnel.
The state of Vatican City, a tiny sovereign state surrounded by Rome, is part of an autonomous administration and has its own budget.
Vatican City State, which employs 1,936 people, had a surplus of $23m (€18m) in 2012. (©Daily Telegraph, London)