Vatican reveals property holdings for the first time

Landmark disclosure lists over 5,100 properties.

Vatican reveals property holdings for the first time

The Vatican on Saturday made public for the first time information about its real estate holdings, revealing that it owns more than 5,100 properties, mainly in Italy.

The publication marks one of the most detailed disclosures of Vatican assets ever. It lists 4,051 properties in Italy and 1,120 abroad, not including the Vatican’s embassies.

The information was published in two documents, totaling more than 50 pages of financial records: a 2020 consolidated financial statement and the first-ever public records of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which manages the Church’s payroll, real estate and investments.

Records show APSA owns investment properties in upscale neighborhoods in Paris, Geneva and Lausanne, as well as in London, where the purchase of one property in the South Kensington district led to enormous losses in 2014.

The information was released ahead of a trial next Tuesday looking into the purchase of the London property by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. 

Ten people, including prominent Cardinal Angelo Becciu, are on trial in connection with its purchase. Some face charges including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

A majority of the Vatican’s properties in Italy are rented at reduced rates to Church staff. About 40 percent are institutional buildings such as convents, but also schools and hospitals, according to Reuters.

The documents also show that the Roman Curia, the Catholic Church’s central administration, ran up a deficit of €64.8 million in 2020. Vatican officials were reported blaming the coronavirus pandemic for a negative impact on finances.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Chinese foreign minister: EU diplomacy is ‘contradictory’

Comments suggest hardening of Beijing's line amid drive for climate cooperation

Chinese foreign minister: EU diplomacy is ‘contradictory’

Beijing has stepped up criticism of Europe’s “triple position” policy on China which simultaneously considers the Asian superpower a partner, competitor and systemic rival.

“The EU’s triple positioning for China is mutually contradictory and cancels itself out,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Maltese counterpart Evarist Bartolo in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Friday.

“China and Europe are partners, not competitors,” said Wang, according to a statement issued by the Chinese government. “China and Europe have neither serious conflicts of interest, nor historical imbroglios.”

Wang has long dismissed the notion that China is a rival for Europe but his latest comments represent a more-forceful criticism of the EU’s three-pronged approach.

The EU adopted that stance in 2019 aiming for a balanced approach that includes human rights sanctions and tougher foreign subsidy screening, while increasing cooperation in areas such as climate change and boosting economic ties, most notably by clinching an investment pact half a year ago.

Lately however, the EU has turned tougher. In a progress report on relations in April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen slammed Beijing’s “authoritarian shift” and said EU member countries should not have their differences with China “brushed under the carpet.”

Wang’s use of the word “contradictory” is in line with a recently hardening of Beijing’s position, as Western countries step up calls for cooperation on carbon emissions ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in November, while tensions mount in other areas, notably the situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and concerns over the use of Chinese technology.

Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cautioned that climate cooperation with Washington would be “closely related to the overall health of Sino-U.S. relations,” after U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry urged China to curb emissions quickly.

Such comments are raising questions over whether China will attempt to leverage climate cooperation in its strained overall relationship with the U.S. and Europe.

Malta expresses tech concerns

Underlining Europe’s concerns, Malta’s Bartolo launched a veiled attack at China’s approach to technology use during his talks in China.

“The world has the resources, scientific advancement and sufficient technology to feed mankind, heal most diseases and educate billions of children. It is up to the politicians to decide whether knowledge and wealth is used to liberate or enslave people, for peace and prosperity or for war and misery,” he told Wang, according to a Maltese government readout.

Apparently echoing a joint transatlantic effort this week to name and shame China over massive cyberattacks on Microsoft servers, Bartolo added: “No country should allow its territory to wage cyber-war on other countries.”

Malta was one of only four EU countries that refused to sign a joint statement last month expressing concern over the situation in Xinjiang in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. It is also one of the few EU members which have joined Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, a multibillion-dollar consortium of global infrastructure plans that the EU views as a potential threat.

Wang expressed China’s appreciation of Malta’s stance on what it considers core sovereignty issues.

“China places emphasis on Malta’s geographical advantage,” Wang told Bartolo. “We’d like to sign an implementation proposal with Malta on [Belt and Road] and make plans for a pragmatic bilateral relationship in the post-coronavirus era.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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