Vatican reveals it owns more than 5,000 properties

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The Vatican has released information on its real estate holdings for the first time, revealing it owns more than 5,000 properties, in its most detailed financial disclosures ever.

The information released on Saturday was contained in two documents – a consolidated financial statement for 2020 for the Holy See and the very first public budget for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (Apsa).

Apsa, a sort of general accounting office, manages real estate and investments, pays salaries and acts as a purchasing office and human resources department.

Between the two documents – each with an unprecedented number of pie charts, graphs and maps – and two explanatory interviews, the Vatican released more than 50 pages of financial documents.

Apsa’s 30-page budget showed that it owns 4,051 properties in Italy and around 1,120 abroad, not counting its embassies around the world.

Only about 14% of its Italian properties have been leased at market rates, while the rest have been leased at reduced rates, many to church employees. About 40% were institutional buildings such as schools, convents and hospitals.

Documentation has shown that Apsa owns properties as investments in upscale areas of London, Geneva, Lausanne and Paris.

A building in South Kensington in London caused huge losses after it was bought by the Vatican Secretariat of State as an investment in 2014.

On Tuesday, the trial of 10 people in connection with his redemption, including the eminent Cardinal Angelo Becciu, opens at the Vatican. They are charged with financial crimes, including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of power.

Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy (SPE), told the official Vatican News site that the building would soon be sold.

He said the trial would be a “turning point” in the Vatican’s economic credibility and that a similar event could not be repeated because of the measures put in place since.

Last year, Pope Francis stripped the Secretary of State of control of its funds, transferring them to Apsa and under the supervision of the SPE.

A separate consolidated financial statement for the Holy See released on Saturday showed a deficit of € 64.8m (£ 55m) in 2020, down from a deficit of € 79.2m in 2019.

The Holy See’s budget includes the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Curia, which oversees the government of the 1.3 billion-member world church, its global diplomatic representations and media operations. .

Vatican City, including the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Bank, has a separate budget.

To fill the 2020 shortfall, around 50 million euros was taken from Peter’s Pence, a donation fund to help the Pope carry out the work of the church around the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Vatican revenue hard in 2020. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the latter a cash cow that received around 6 million paying visitors in 2019, have been closed or only closed partially open for much of 2020.

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