The Vatican owns more than 5,000 church and investment properties around the world, a central office at the Catholic Church revealed for the first time Saturday, according to several news outlets — but the church is struggling with a budget deficit, plus years of alleged mismanagement tied to its investment strategy.
Most of the Vatican’s real estate holdings (4,051) are in Italy, the majority of which are used by church-affiliated groups or rented out at reduced prices instead of getting leased at market rate, according to a report from the church-run Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) obtained by Reuters, Catholic News Service and other outlets.
Forbes has reached out to the Vatican for comment.
The Roman Curia — the Catholic Church’s central administrative body — ran a $76.3 million operating deficit in 2020, down from a $93.2 million deficit in 2019, according to a budget statement obtained Saturday by the Jesuit America magazine. In an interview with the church-run Vatican News, church official Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves called the Curia’s 2020 performance “better than what we expected,” partly because the church slashed expenses during the coronavirus pandemic. The church reported a larger overall deficit in 2020 than 2019, however, largely due to a drop in unrealized financial gains.
The Vatican’s financial practices — and particularly its real estate holdings — have drawn scandal and scrutiny for years. Pope Francis reorganized how the church’s real estate investments are overseen last year, following years of sometimes fraught attempts to reform the Curia amid claims of embezzlement and endemic financial mismanagement. Several people are on trial for allegedly scamming the church out of millions of dollars in connection with its London real estate investment nearly a decade ago.