The Vatican has revealed its real estate portfolio for the first time – it includes more than 5,000 properties around the world.

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VATICAN (CNS) – Ahead of a financial fraud trial involving the Vatican’s London real estate purchase, the office that handles much of the Vatican’s investment portfolio, including real estate, has released a summary of its annual budget. for the first time.

The Estates of the Holy See, known by the Italian initials APSA, released the consolidated budget on July 24, and its president, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, described it as “a step forward towards transparency and information sharing.”

The report says APSA directly manages 4,051 properties in Italy and outsourced the management of approximately 1,200 properties in London, Paris, Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland.

However, the office was not involved in a London property deal that resulted in 10 indictments, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former prefect of the Congregation of Saints, on charges ranging from embezzlement to money laundering and abuse of office.

The lawsuit, which was set to begin on July 27, revolves around the Vatican’s investigation into how the Secretariat of State used $ 200 million to fund a property development project in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood and received millions of dollars in debt.

According to the indictment, the failed real estate transaction “resulted in significant losses for the Vatican’s finances, including from funds earmarked for the Holy Father’s personal charitable works,” in particular from funds from the Pence Peter collection.

The budget summary provides insight into the Vatican’s investments and real estate ownership, which is often shrouded in mystery and is the subject of much speculation.

Towards the end of the investigation, Pope Francis ordered the Secretariat of State to transfer control of his financial assets to the APSA.

“The State Secretariat, which most closely and directly supports the actions of the Supreme Pontiff in his mission and represents an important starting point for the activities of the Roman Curia, should not perform those functions in economic and financial matters that are already entrusted to him. to other dicasteries, ”the Pope wrote in December.

The APSA budget summary highlighted the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. During fiscal 2020, APSA reported profit of almost € 22 million ($ 25.8 million), well below the € 73.21 million ($ 86.3 million) profit in 2019.

Bishop Galantino, who was appointed by the Pope to head the office in 2018, told Vatican News that despite heavy losses from lockdowns throughout the year, “prompt and concrete attention” has been given to the people and especially the businesses that occupy the buildings. owned or operated by APSA.

“In documented cases, we gave them the opportunity to take advantage of the rent reduction and postpone some of the rent itself,” he said.

While reducing or delaying rent payments contributed to the loss of income over the year, the Italian bishop said the decision remains “a positive outcome in the sense that it revealed a desire to be and continue to be and behave” like a church. “Even at a time of serious crisis for all.”

“I have a secret hope: I hope that the publication and reading of numbers will lead to more accurate and complete information.”

The APSA Budget Summary also provides insight into the Vatican’s investment and real estate ownership, which is often shrouded in mystery and is the subject of much speculation.

“I have a secret hope: I hope that the publication and reading of the numbers and important notes accompanying them will help to obtain more accurate and complete information,” said Bishop Galantino.

More importantly, it sheds light on how property income is used or distributed.

For example, the budget summary stated that market rents charged to “prestigious homes” in Paris and London allowed APSA to offer the papal almoner’s office free use of Palazzo Migliori, a four-story building just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica.

The 19th century building, once the seat of the Roman nobility, has been converted into an orphanage, day center and poor dining room, run by the Community of Sant’Edigio, a Roman lay movement that already has a variety of free dining programs for the city’s poor.

In addition, Bishop Galantino told Vatican News that the 2017 Vatican’s purchase of real estate near the famous Arc de Triomphe of Paris for about 14.4 million euros was made “to increase the income of the Holy See and at the same time provide resources for investing in the construction of the church”, as well as a Catholic school in a poor Parisian area.

For Bishop Galantino, the goal of the budget release is to “promote a new culture” of financial responsibility.

However, not all properties owned by the Vatican are buildings in posh neighborhoods.

According to the bishop, the APSA holdings include agricultural land that produces almost exclusively grain and wheat, which are used to feed animals on the papal farm in Castel Gandolfo.

He added that the agricultural firm that oversees agricultural land is also involved in agricultural conservation programs “aimed at limiting and reducing soil erosion.”

According to him, APSA will complete a census of its land assets by the end of the summer of 2021, followed by analysis and strategy proposals “to improve their relative income figures.”

However, for Bishop Galantino, the promulgation of the budget, as well as the continuation of financial reforms, is more than bringing order to the financial affairs of the Vatican; Above all, he said, the goal is to “promote a new culture” of financial responsibility.

“This requires defining new procedures that provide increasingly correct and transparent governance models (which are) easily tracked and open to any oversight,” he said. “We are still working on it. But we are on the right track. “

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