by Carlo Marroni
For its headquarters, the famous Tower Nicholas V, it pays a rent to the Governorate of the Vatican City State.
This is a drop in the bucket of the patrimony of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, which are two distinct legal entities: the first is the “government” of the universal Church, and the second is the state itself created in 1929 with a territory, an army, a telephone service, the post office, a pharmacy.
What is the total asset value of the Vatican, when considered as the central government of the Roman Curia, thus excluding the assets of religious institutions and dioceses, which are the largest part of the Church worldwide?
There are no official estimates, and ultimately, nor unofficial ones, since -- as has partially emerged from recent revelations -- there is no true mapping that is definitive and known.
However, according to sources at the Curia who have long been monitoring the dossier, the “available” assets are estimated at €9-10 billion, including all the assessable and marketable real estate assets - both in Italy and abroad, especially Paris and London – or those that could be sold.
Not only the properties within the Leonine Walls are excluded, but also the extra-territorial ones in the city of Rome, which are “functional”: there are no estimates on the latter, because of no utility for the assessment.
The Vatican, for example, has the huge complex of San Callisto, in Trastevere, home to some ministries as well as the residencies where pontifical officials live. Other examples are the Gregorian University in Piazza della Pilotta, or the Palace of Chancellery next to Campo de’ Fiori and many others, such as the prestigious properties on the Janiculum, among which the historic Children’s Hospital, Bambino Gesù, included in the Lateran Treaty, whereby not only these properties are extra-territorial, but they are also free from expropriation and taxes.
The bulk of the Holy See’s real estate assets are in the hands of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which owns the largest share of the estimated €10 billion concentrated in around 2,500 apartments and several commercial funds.
In the financial reorganization, the APSA – headed by Cardinal Domenico Calcagno since 2011 – has maintained the asset management function, while the Secretariat for the Economy, created in 2014, was accorded the management of human resources and procurement, in addition to the functions as “Ministry of Finance.”
The APSA - which these days is at the center of an investigation into alleged money laundering – has the highest income, certainly superior to Propaganda Fide and the Governorate.
The first, the ministry of missions headed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, is headquartered in the palace of Piazza di Spagna, and has always had a large patrimony resulting from the bequests in favor of the missions.
The Governorate, led by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, has properties mostly within the walls, or between Santa Marta - where the Pope lives since he was elected - and the San Carlo Palace, up to Via del Pellegrino, where the offices of the Osservatore Romano are.
Therefore, a change for more transparent and efficient management of the patrimony is needed, as Francis said.
A few months ago, the C-9 (the council of cardinals including those who advise the Pope on reforms) received the draft of a project for the management of the properties through an asset manager where the services would have been centralized (but not the property, which would have remained in the hands of the individual ministries), from the rents to the maintenance.
It would have been a kind of facility management directed by a board of cardinals represented by the interested head of ministries. It did not take off, maybe because it would have undermined the competencies of everybody. And no one wants to lose ground.