Vatican City - The Vatican, facing its worst financial crisis of the 21st century, insisted on Friday that parishioners in the US and Europe start giving more money and pushed people of all nations stop asking for "freebies" from the church for things that are "damn well worth buying". The Vatican issued a new directive about money that should make its stances on giving and taking much easier for people to understand. The directive, commission by Pope John Paul II, will be delivered to all Catholics across the globe over the next few weeks.
Q1 results released earlier this week show that The Vatican missed it earnings targets by $0.03 per share causing some analysts to downgrade the stock. (VAT: NYSE) Although the Vatican's revenues increased nearly US$3B for the quarter ending in March, profits were down due to increased expenses. Vatican spokesman, Carlo Peratti, blamed the expenses on "the graying of the Vatican. We're getting older. What can I say? We spend a lot on Depends, and you cannot get any health insurance once you pass 80. Look at the bright side. Our Viagra bill is zero. Things could be worse."
Wafer selling is likely to be the most controversial part of the new plan. "Our stance is simple," explained Peratti. "People will pay good money for luxuries like crack, liquor, cigarettes, and food, and these things don't even begin to compare to the value of communion gifts. We aren't holding a gun to your head to make you pay, and the truth is that we don't really care how much you pay or even if you pay. We are just going to let the highest bidders leave out of Mass first. You can wait for the free wafers if you want, but we figure that everyone can come up with something if it means not having to sit around and wait. The "buy now" feature at communion is going to be quite popular. Think of it as the express lane at the toll both. We will be hiring new priests to streamline the process, if necessary." The pope's directive clearly states that the churches "should not use lay people in the handling of money during mass." Peratti added, "We wouldn't want to open up this process to corruption."
Peratti estimated that the new plan would generate more than US$2B in revenues in Q2 and would eventually add revenues of US$20B per quarter "once everyone has bought into the program." Peratti said that expenses would be curtailed immediately by "farming out" some older Vatican employees back to their home countries. "We will have a one-time write-off in Q2 on moving expenses that will adversely affect our earnings numbers, but we will be solidly back on track in Q3, and we are looking for better results for the full 2004 fiscal year."
Joseph Bloom of Goldman-Sachs upgraded The Vatican stock to a Hold on this release.