SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 24 April 2024, Wednesday |

Vatican reveals property holdings for first time in transparency drive

On Saturday, the Vatican revealed for the first time its real estate assets, revealing it owns more than 5,000 properties as part of its most extensive financial reports ever.

The information was contained in two documents: the Holy See’s consolidated financial statement for 2020 and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See’s first-ever public budget (APSA).

APSA, which functions as a purchasing office and human resources department, administers real estate and investments, pays salaries, and works as a purchasing office.

The Vatican released more than 50 pages of financial information in two publications, each with an unparalleled number of pie charts, graphs, and maps, as well as two explanatory interviews.

The APSA budget revealed that it has 4,051 properties in Italy and around 1,120 properties abroad, not including its embassies across the world, according to the 30-page document.

Only about 14% of its Italian properties were rented at market rates, while the others were rented at cut rates, many to Church employees. About 40% were institutional buildings such as schools, convents and hospitals.

The documentation showed that APSA owns properties as investments in upscale areas of London, Geneva, Lausanne and Paris.

‘TURNING POINT’

One building, in London’s smart South Kensington district, led to enormous losses after it was purchased by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State as an investment in 2014.

On Tuesday, the trial of 10 people in connection with its purchase, including a prominent cardinal, starts in the Vatican. They are charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

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

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

Last year, Pope Francis stripped the Secretariat of State of control over its funds, transferring them to APSA and with oversight by the SPE.

A separate consolidated financial statement for the Holy See issued on Saturday showed a 64.8 million euro deficit in 2020, down from a 79.2 million deficit in 2019.

The Holy See budget includes the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Curia, that oversees the governing of the 1.3 billion-member worldwide Church, its global diplomatic representations and media operations.

The Vatican City budget, which includes the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Bank, is separate.

About 50 million euros were taken from Peter’s Pence, a fund of donations to assist the pope in carrying out the Church’s worldwide activity, to plug the 2020 gap.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Vatican revenues.

For much of 2020, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the latter a cash cow with nearly 6 million paying visitors in 2019, will be shuttered or only partially open.

    Source:
  • Reuters