And the truth of the matter is that nobody knows for sure.
There are a couple of reasons for this uncertainty...
First, the Vatican Bank has been the center of embezzlement and fraud scandals for years, making it difficult to get an accurate count of what, precisely, the bank is holding in terms of cash flow.
And second, in some countries (America among them), religious groups aren't required to release financial statements. This is why much of the Vatican's gold is allegedly kept here in the United States, at Fort Knox.
Here's what we do know about how much money the Vatican has...
How Much Money Does the Vatican Have: What We Do Know
- The Vatican Bank manages $64 billion of assets on behalf of its 17,400 customers, according to a Dec. 5, 2014, article in International Business Times.
- The bank owns $764 million in equity.
- The bank keeps gold reserves worth over $20 million with the U.S. Federal Reserve.
While these numbers may not seem like much in the way of information transparency from such a large and reputedly mysterious institution, until a few years ago, not even these kinds of cut-and-dry statements were available to the public.
However, upon his succession as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's replacement (who resigned in the wake of a scandal involving leaked documents and money transfers to America to pay for priests' sex abuse trials), Pope Francis set about establishing widespread fiscal reform. A June 5, 2014, article in The Boston Globe outlined the pontiff's effort to internationalize the Vatican's financial management by firing its all-Italian Vatican Financial Information Authority Board. He immediately replaced the officials with representatives from Singapore, Switzerland, Italy, and the United States.
This marked a turning point in what was called Pope Francis' "honesty and transparency" campaign - a campaign that wasn't taken seriously until this point.
But with the officials' termination, people began to take heed of Francis' actions. The pontiff also made the bank's financial, transfer, and operational statements public. According to a May 29, 2015, article in Reuters, for the fiscal year 2014, the Vatican Bank reported about $76 million in net profit - more than 20 times the $3.16 million reported for the previous year.
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