Vatican starts hiring freeze to cut costs

Austerity measures in response to expected budget deficit

The Vatican has announced an immediate hiring freeze and a suspension of salary increases and overtime as part of cost-cutting measures to offset a bleak economic forecast.

The Vatican's secretary of state, the newly-appointed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, outlined the measures in a letter sent to the heads of all Vatican offices, bodies and institutions.

The changes, which were approved by Pope Francis, take immediate effect and will remain in place until further notice.

Chief among the new measures is the use of volunteers to help fill the gap left by Vatican workers whose temporary contracts are not being renewed.

Most of the Holy See's approximately 2,800 employees earn a tax-free starting salary ranging from €1,100 to €2,100 per month, according to the Catholic News Service.