Pope Francis announced plans to slash the salaries of priests, cardinals and nuns in order to save the jobs of Vatican employees as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Holy See's finances, The Sydney Herald reported Thursday.

A church official said most lay workers would not be affected by the cuts, but their pay increases are being temporarily frozen under the austerity measures.

Cardinals will see their paychecks reduced by 10% starting April 1, while priests' salaries will be trimmed by 3%. Superiors of the Holy See's various departments will be hit by 8% cuts, according to Francis.

Cardinals working and living at the Vatican are believed to be paid around $4,730 to $5,915 a month, and many live in large apartments at well below market rents.

A senior Vatican prelate said the salary cut was believed to be the first time in history that a pontiff had carried out such action.

The belt-tightening measure "has the aim of saving current job positions,'' the Pope said.

The 84-year old Pope has often said he doesn't want to terminate people in difficult economic times.

Restrictions on tourism by many countries and other pandemic prohibitions have severely affected revenues at the Vatican Museums, which are currently closed and will stay closed at least through the coming Holy Week.

Earlier this month, the Vatican said it has almost used up its financial reserves from past donations to cover budget shortfalls. It has predicted a $60 million deficit for 2021.