The Vatican has published its annual results, reporting a near-balanced budget but admitting that every year it was selling off assets to cover expenses.

Juan Antonio Guerrero, the Vatican's de facto economy minister, said the Holy See recorded a deficit in 2021 of €3.3 million, much less than the €33 million projected.

"A deficit of €3 million euros in a budget of €1.1 billion is not a lot," he said in an interview with Vatican News.

However, he warned of a more structural problem: "The fact is that the Holy See sells assets every year to cover curial services."

These sales were reducing the patrimony of the Holy See by €20 million to €25 million every year, he said.

"Each year's donations, and what the Holy See can generate, cannot fund all the expenses of the entities that have no revenues," Mr Guerrero said.

He warned that 2022 will be a "particularly difficult year, and so will 2023".

Pope Francis

"We are not looking for surpluses but for sustainability of the Holy See's service," he said.

Pope Francis has pressed for more transparency in the running of the Catholic Church, which in recent years has seen a series of corruption scandals.

With this in mind, this year's accounts include a wider range of assets than previously, although it does not include the Vatican state or what is known commonly as the Vatican Bank.