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Sadly, it is obscenely rich. Although not a Catholic, a few years ago, whilst travelling round Italy, I visited the Vatican City in Rome (the centre of the Catholic Church) where I paid a visit to the Vatican museums. What greeted me was room after room after room of works of art, paintings, drawings, etchings, sculptures and so on - sculptures in some cases several deep on each side of the walkway through the rooms. Each work of art was worth millions on the open market, and I think that I saw many thousands of them, each worth a huge fortune. Later I was informed that only a small percentage of the treasures they own are on show, and that most treasures are in storerooms not open to the public, so that just the Vatican artwork must be worth countless billions if placed on the open market.

If you then extraolate that treasure to the many thousands of Catholic churches and cathedrals across the world each with its own treasures and artworks, you can easily believe the assumption that the Catholic Church is, by far, the richest organisation in the world. If just one painting was sold to a rich collector - one out of the countless thousands they have - and the money given to the poor, say, in Africa, the money raised would equal or surpass the total amount of aid given to Africa for the whole of Europe last year.

Sadly, that is only half of the problem. There are those who justify this great wealth by saying that the Vatican is custodian of this great art for the world. However, this argument fails on two accounts. Firstly, only a very small percentage of the Vatican's treasures are actually on display for all to see. The vast majority of items are locked away in the Vatican vaults, never to see the light of day. No one knows for certain how much is there but estimates range from 80 - 90% of all the Vatican's treasures are never shown to the public, and so the Vatican cannot be called a custodian. Secondly, many normal museums, when strapped for cash, sell some of their stock to wealthy millionaires, who then give back the work of art to the museum on permanent loan. The load remains the property of the new buyer, and becomes part of his estate for tax purposes and so on, but it is kept on permanent loan at the museum in perpetuity for all to enjoy. All are winners as the owner of the art does not have the problems of security and storage of the item, and the original museum still has the item on show for all to enjoy. However, the Vatican has refused this scheme and prefers to hoard 'treasures on earth', something forbidden by Christ himself.

The poverty of the poorest countries in the world is directly linked to the amount of debt they are in to the Western World, hence the 'Drop the Debt' campaigns and 'Jubillee 2000' to try to persuade the richest countries of the world to write off debt so the poorest nations could stand up for themselves. A large input of money into such a country would write off the deby and enable that country to recover themselves and take their place in the trading nations of the world. The sale of one work of art at the Vatican would enable a country to do this... but we are all still waiting.

Alternative viewpointConsider:

1. The entire vatican collections are nominally valued on the catholic church asset sheet at 1 euro cent. The treasures belong to the world, and cannot be mortgaged, borrowed against or sold by the vatican - they are literally priceless. In that sense, the cathoic church is not made rich by the works of art it owns.

2. Would the Catholic church, if it could, be right to sell those works of art? yes it would be a huge charitable donation, but that would run out and those people in Africa would not be better off in the long run - ecological and environmental problems would still exist. At the same time, the millions of people who enjoy those works of art - and many millions who will do, would be unable to do so because the art would be in private hands.

The rich man in The Bible was not offering his riches for the whole world to see!

don't forget about all ther property other then churches that it owns, a list of building lots, buildings,ect came out and there were several dozens just in tucson AZ alone. the church doesn't only own churches and art.

Catholic AnswerAs the Body of Christ, the Church is spiritually wealthy, as She is in possession of Jesus. In material possessions (land, buildings, etc.) one could certainly say that She is rich. In actual income, She is probably the poorest run "business" on the planet. For one thing She builds for ages, when a church is built, it is not just for the current generation but for all the generations that will follow. The Vatican, itself, is thousands of years old, most of the current buildings were built hundreds of years ago. Of course, She is rich, in faith, in people, in everything that really matters for eternity. As far as income is concerned, the church never has enough to meet all its essential needs and necessary work. The Catholic Church annually spends billions on Her many works to help men's temporal welfare, and is hard put to provide for her thousands of missionaries. AnswerOf course not, the Church is rich in the love of Christ, and is rich through the many people through the centuries who have given their lives to Him through the Church: look not only at the buildings and institutions that have been the result of their labors but the many wonderful books of prayers and theology. On the other hand, if your are asking if the Church has a stash of money somewhere, then, in that way she would be considered poor. The Church is a good steward, when she builds, she builds for the ages. St. Peter's Basilica was orignially built in the sixth century, I believe the current edifice is nearly six hundred years old. But all the cash income that she receives goes right back out to help people throughout the world, whether it is your local parish educated youth, or a religious order feeding the hungry in Africa.

Answer

Yes. So rich that the Church seems to have forgotten its supposed reason for existence. A Royal Commission into child sex abuse required the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia to make its financial position known to the Commission, as the archdiocese had been so miserly in providing compensation to the victims of clergy. It appears just this one archdiocese has assets held in trust, well in excess of one billion dollars and earning an annual surplus of many millions of dollars. The Commissioner was told that assets such as the magnificent cathedral would be be included at a purely nominal value because of its heritage value.

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