Business / Finance

Vatican Reveals Over 5,000 Property Holdings For The First Time

The information has been revealed ahead of an upcoming embezzlement trial.

Jul 26, 2021 | By Terence Ruis
St Peter Basilica Vaticano, Vatican City

Image: Fabio Fistarol / Unsplash

The Vatican has revealed its real estate holdings for the first time, detailing over 5,000 church and investment properties around the world.

The information was recorded in the Vatican’s most detailed financial disclosure yet, released on Saturday (24 July). Per Reuters, the details about the property holdings were contained in two documents: a consolidated 2020 financial statement for the Holy See and the first-ever public budget for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA).

The latter document reveals that the Vatican owns 4,051 properties in Italy. According to Forbes, the majority of these are used by church-affiliated groups or leased out at below-market rates. The budget also revealed that APSA owns properties as investments outside of Italy, including London, Geneva, Lausanne, and Paris.

Pope Francis waving in a crowd, Vatican City

Pope Francis. Image: Ashwin Vaswani / Unsplash

Forbes notes that this list includes an investment property in London’s upscale South Kensington district which “controversially sank more than $400 million” almost a decade ago. 10 people are set to undergo trial for this case starting Tuesday (27 July), including prominent Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Some of the charges the group face include embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office.

According to the official Vatican News website, preparations are being made to sell the building. Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves of the Secretariat for the Economy confirmed the news in an interview. He also revealed in the interview that the Holy See ended up with a deficit of €64.8 million in 2020, an improvement from the €79.2 million in 2019.

The Vatican’s financial practices have long drawn public scrutiny. According to Reuters, Pope Francis restructured how the church’s real estate investments are organised last year. He stripped the Secretariat of State control of its funds and transferred them to APSA. The Secretariat of State is the administration that performs all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See.

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