A Vatican-funded gift to charities has sparked outrage, with the Pope’s charity calling it a “grave mistake”.
The gift of nearly $2bn has been given to Catholic charities in the US, Canada and Britain, the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday.
The fund has been called “a gift for the Church” and will go to charity “through a donation of 1.5 billion euros”.
Its chief executive, Archbishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger, said the money was “not meant for the benefit of the Church but for the advancement of charity”.
“This is a grave mistake,” he said.
“This money should not be used to support a church or church ministry but to support charity.
The donation will be used for the development of a new programme to raise funds to support Catholic education and other programmes that benefit children.”
The charity, the Pontifical Council for the Family, said it will use the money to fund the building of “new, innovative, effective and more effective initiatives that will enable young people to experience a life of dignity, freedom and belonging”.
The organisation has been criticised for its decision to give money to organisations that are explicitly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.
The church’s fund, called the “Pioneering Family” or “PFF”, has already received funding from the American-based Catholic Church Foundation.
The US church has received $1.3bn in funding from Francis since he took over in March 2016.
In 2016, Francis gave a large sum of money to the UN Population Fund and to the Pontifex Maximus International Institute, which provides financial assistance to persecuted Christians.
The Vatican also received $2m from the United States Congress.
The Pope also received a $10m grant from the U.S. government in 2017 for the UNFPA.