Sins of the Vatican Museums

Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga from Salamanca, a man most trusted by Pope Francis, has a problem that he surely did not expect when he accepted the job of governor of Vatican City State three years ago.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
14 May 2024 Tuesday 10:37
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Sins of the Vatican Museums

Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga from Salamanca, a man most trusted by Pope Francis, has a problem that he surely did not expect when he accepted the job of governor of Vatican City State three years ago. A total of 49 employees of the Vatican Museums threaten to take the Government – ​​which administers the smallest state in the world – to court if they do not receive a satisfactory response to their demands for poor labor practices that they believe have been going on for too long. they lengthen

“Your Most Reverend Eminence, working conditions harm the dignity and health of every worker. The mismanagement is evident, which would be even more serious if it were the result of the sole logic of obtaining greater profits," writes, in her instance, the lawyer who represents 47 custodians, a restorer and a bookseller of the Vatican Museums who, among others, They complain about being paid incorrectly for overtime or lack of promotions. And it could be just the tip of the iceberg, since, as Corriere della Sera reported yesterday, there could be other workers ready to join the complaints against the Vatican.

The basic problem is that Vatican workers are not constituted in unions, they do not have representatives and they protest the lack of norms that regulate their rights. For example, they consider that, in case of illness, they are sequestered in their own homes because under the Vatican system fiscal medical visits do not have a specific schedule, as is the case in the Italian case. They can arrive at any time of the day, and there have been cases in which workers have been disciplined because they had gone to the doctor during one of these checks.

Another demand is that, after the pandemic, in October 2021, the Vatican Museums began to claim from employees all the hours they had not worked during the period in which they had been closed due to confinements. It is a “notice for hours debt”, that is, workers who had stayed at home are asked to repay with a part of their salary “until the debt is exhausted.” Retirees, on the other hand, have had the “negative hours” withheld from the money they owed at the end of the employment relationship.

In addition, they also denounce some issues linked to the lack of security in Museum spaces, such as the few emergency exits or the lack of air conditioning, which in the hot Roman summer can cause serious problems. According to the Association of Lay Workers of the Vatican – with more than 500 employees of the 4,000 who work in the Holy See – these are “common problems” with other Vatican workers because “the legislation that regulates the world of work in the Vatican is missing. in several aspects: from social safety nets, through family policies, to the revaluation of salaries and the approval of regulations.”

“They are not newcomers. Some of them have been working for fifteen or twenty years,” the lawyer who carried out the case, Laura Sgro, explains to La Vanguardia. “There are workers' conditions that do not respect the basic principles of dignity and it is a situation that has been happening for quite some time. As through individual requests they have not obtained results, we hope that by doing so collectively they will have greater force,” she indicates. Sgro is not unknown in the Vatican, but is the same lawyer who has already managed to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, a young daughter of an employee of the Holy See who her family has been searching for for more than 40 years.

For the moment this is only an attempt at conciliation, so the other party, that is, the Governorate of Vatican City State, has one month to respond. However, Sgro still has no news about Cardinal Vérgez Alzaga, who in 2022 became the first cardinal of the Legionaries of Christ, a recognition of his renewal after the scandal over the sexual abuse of the founder Marcial Maciel. Since last year, the Spaniard is also part of the Pope's Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, the select group of cardinals who advise Francis in the government of the universal Church.