The Catholic Church has made an unprecedented financial disclosure, revealing the extent of its real estate holdings around the world. More than 50 pages of forms released Saturday show that the Vatican owns 4,051 properties in Italy and 1,120 elsewhere, Politico reports. Vatican embassies are not included in the count. About 40% of the Italy portfolio consists of convents, schools, hospitals, and other institutional buildings. The rest are rented to retired cardinals and other church employees at below-market rates, per Reuters. The Vatican also owns property in London, Paris, Geneva, and Lausanne, Switzerland. In total, 14% of the properties are rented at the going rate, funding the Vatican and its charity operations.
One of those real estate investments, in London, has led to a trial scheduled to begin Tuesday. Ten people, including a cardinal, face fraud and corruption charges involving a plan to turn a former Harrods warehouse into luxury apartments. The release also showed the Vatican ran $78 million in the red last year, which was better than its projections. Expenses were cut once the pandemic hit, including a 75% reduction in events and activities, per Deutsche Welle. Public disclosures such as these represent a new approach for the church, the Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, Vatican Secretariat for the Economy conceded. "We come from a culture of secrecy," he said, "but we have learned that in economic matters transparency protects us more than secrecy." (Read more Vatican stories.)