The economic crunch has hit Christmas at the Vatican this year, with a cut-price Nativity scene in St Peter's Square, even if the bill will be met by already hard-pushed Italian taxpayers.

Following the outrage that greeted claims the Vatican spent €550,000 ($853,000) on the Nativity scene in 2009, the Holy See is keen to be seen spending its money more prudently.

In what might be seen as cleaning out the Nativity stables, this year's scene cost €180,000 less than the already cheaper 2011 version. Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca, a senior administrator at the Vatican city state, told reporters yesterday that the Holy See was spending just €22,000 on mounting the larger-than-life scene.

But cardinals have ensured that someone other than the church is paying for the bulk of the expenses - those of transportation and construction for the 150sq m exhibit.


The church, which receives millions of euros in taxpayer contributions, has allowed Italy's poorest region Basilicata to pick up €90,000 of the total €122,000 cost. The region has said that sponsors stumped up most of the sum.

One of the most damaging documents leaked during the Vatileaks scandal was a letter from Monsignor Sciacca's predecessor, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano complaining that the Vatican was losing millions of euros through corruption and unnecessary expenses.

- Independent