Vatican sells London property amid fraud trial

ROME (AP) — The Vatican announced on Friday that it has signed a contract to sell a luxury building in London that is at the heart of an ongoing trial for fraud and embezzlement in the Vatican Criminal Court, recovering more than expected from deficit investment.

The Vatican’s economy ministry also revealed when releasing the Holy See’s budget for 2022 that 10% of the down payment has been received and the sale is expected to close in June. The budget calls for a reduction in the Holy See’s deficit to 33 million euros ($37 million) from 42 million euros last year.

The head of the ministry, the Reverend Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, told Vatican media that the loss of the London building had already been accounted for in the balance sheets of the Holy See. No figures were given, including the final sale price for the property, but Guerrero said he sold for more than his appraised price.

The Vatican’s purchase of the building, located at 60 Sloan Ave. in the Chelsea district of London, has been one of the darkest marks on Vatican finances in recent years. The Secretariat of State has poured some 350 million euros into investment, largely from donations from the faithful, for a building which its former owner bought for 129 million pounds, less than half the sum invested .

The scandal revealed the incompetence of the Vatican monsignors in managing its coffers, as they gave up voting shares in the deal and agreed to pay unnecessarily exorbitant fees to known Italians in circles business for their shady dealings.

Vatican prosecutors have accused the Holy See’s longtime fund manager, Italian brokers and lawyers of robbing the Holy See in the various contortions of the deal, then extorting 15 million from the Vatican euros to finally gain full ownership of the property, a former Harrods warehouse.

Pope Francis had announced his intention to get rid of the property in 2020 when he ordered the Secretariat of State to hand over all of its remaining assets to a centralized Vatican treasury, as the London fiasco proved how monsignors in the office had mismanaged the financial portfolio.

This reputational blow, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, impacted the Vatican’s bottom line, as much of the funding for London’s initial investment came from Peter’s Pence donations from the faithful to charities in the Vatican. pope and maintenance of the Holy See. .

In the budget estimates, Guerrero said donations from Peter’s Pence have continued to decline for several years, down to 15% last year, in part due to reduced Mass attendance during the pandemic, when collections are usually done.

“This should make us think about other methods of soliciting help from the faithful and receiving donations,” he told Vatican media.

The Vatican’s 2022 budget jumps from 300 million euros last year to 800 million euros in 2022, as new accounting metrics incorporate Vatican-owned entities, including the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome, one of the greatest in Europe.

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