Luxury buildings and apartments in Paris, London, and Geneva make up the Holy See’s real estate empire, which is constantly drawn to the attention of journalists due to periodic high-profile scandals.
Source: AFP material cited by Yahoo
Details: Bishop Nunzio Galantine, who was appointed by Pope Francis two years ago to centralize the Vatican’s assets, complained that he was already tired of” sensational “ media stories about the papacy’s wealth.
According to him, the data that the majority of real estate in Rome belongs to the Catholic Church and the Vatican is not true.
However, the scale of the Vatican’s ownership still interests people, this is happening against the background of periodic scandals.
The beginning of the history of investing in valuable assets dates back to 1929 when the Vatican State was founded as an independent territory in agreement with Italy, and according to this agreement, the churches paid compensation for real estate previously seized from the Papal state. Among the seized church assets was the huge Quirinale Palace, which once housed 30 popes, and is now used as the residence of the Italian president.
Galantine stressed that it was then that Pope Pius XI decided to use the money received to invest in property, including abroad, “to ensure the freedom and independence of the church.”
For many years, Vatican real estate has been managed by the Apostolic See Property Administration (APSA). He has very valuable buildings and apartments at his disposal.
We are talking about 737 properties in the heart of Paris, around the Boulevard Saint-Michel, the Odeon, and the Champs-Elysees, with an area of almost 56 thousand square meters. Their cost is estimated at 595.5 million euros (722.1 million dollars).
In London, APSA has 27 sites — among them addresses in St. James Square, Kensington, and New Bond Street, with an area of about 4.6 thousand square meters, worth approximately 108.5 million euros ($131.4 million).
Meanwhile, in Switzerland, in particular, in Geneva and Lausanne, the Church has 140 objects with an area of 16 thousand square meters worth more than 91 million euros (110 million dollars).
In Rome, the Vatican has built buildings, particularly on the two main streets that converge on St. Peter’s Square, including the famous Via Della Conciliazione.
Today, APSA also directly manages the rental of 2,400 apartments and 600 offices and stores in Italy, which brought in 99 million euros ($119.9 million) in 2019.
One of the goals of Galantine in his position calls “improving the performance” of the Vatican property, as some apartments are empty, and some are dilapidated after many years of use.
At the same time, Galantine assures that the Holy See recently allocated part of its real estate for charitable purposes. So, one luxurious building in Rome is now used for the training of the clergy.
Galantine says it’s difficult to appreciate the Vatican’s Italian holdings, not least because buildings like St. Peter’s Basilica are priceless. It is likely that the value of the Vatican’s assets can reach several billion euros just for real estate on the rental market.
In addition, there are hundreds of apartments that are managed by the church department responsible for missionary activities, with these apartments receiving probably another 3-4 billion euros (3.6-4.8 billion dollars).
APSA is still compiling a full description of its Italian holdings, which may be formed before spring.
Pope Francis also recently handed over to APSA control of a London property acquired by the powerful Secretariat of State — the Vatican’s central administration-in a roundabout deal through Italian intermediaries. They, in particular, include objects in the elite area of London-Chelsea. The Italian financier who brokered the deal with the Vatican was arrested last year on corruption charges, although he was later released. Last year, the Vatican police also became interested in the activities of the office of the State Secretariat. As a result, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the highest church official responsible for the deal, was fired.
Yet another scandal of assets the Vatican has been associated with an investment Fund based in Malta which operates one of London’s real estate portfolio, consisting of five luxury apartments. Then it turned out that the fund used the received funds to inform the film about Elton John “Rocketman”. In this regard, the Pope said that he wants to abandon these investments as soon as possible in order to minimize any risk to the reputation of the Church.
Also, last month, a Vatican court sentenced the former head of the Vatican bank IOR to 9 years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering related to corrupt real estate transactions.