Is the Pope/ Vatican rich?


Hi guys, I was involved in a discussion with 2 of my workmates (both lapsed Catholics) the other day and this topic came up. We often have discussions about religion, morals etc and I feel I defend the Church quite well. However, they were saying that the Pope and the Vatican is rich and could easily wipe out 3rd world debt in an instant. Also asking why the pope has a large jewelled ring when there are people starving.
I wasn’t too sure how to refute these accusations, and I have heard them before, mainly from protestants.

If anyone has any info on this I would be very grateful!

God Bless.


The Church has over a billion members. So if each one gave only a dollar, it would be one of the richest organisations in the world.

The Pope’s ring is doubtless a very expensive piece of jewellery. But it wouldn’t fund Third World national debts for more than a few seconds. The scales of finance are completely different. Nor, if we gave all Church resources to the poor, would the effects last for very long. It would be a bit like saying don’t spend anything on my research whilst there are Alzheimer’s patients who can’t get the nursing care they need. Short term, yes, you would pay for a few nurses, but long term no research, no drugs.


The Vatican could not wipe out all 3rd world debt in an instant, even if it had the money. Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you”.

Much of the alleged wealth can’t be given away. For example, the art treasures. If these were sold, there would be no further income from the Vatican museum, and hence no charity donations would be possible.

You might look up the figures to see how much the Vatican actually gave to charity last year. It’s a lot more than your co-workers did.

Additionally, if someone were to give you a priceless painting as a gift to the Church, can you simply turn around and flog it off? Does this no imply a disresepct for both the giver and the gift?


The things the Vatican owns aren’t the personal property of anyone. John Paul II, for example, left almost no personal property of any kind in his will - he had little to leave! He HAD few personal possessions, received no salary for doing his job. He owned barely a thing. Certainly no cars, tvs, stereos, houses, nothing like that.

The things the Church has are, mostly, priceless works of art and architecture - part of the world’s cultural heritage, not just the private playthings of the churchmen. The Sistine Chapel, for example, belongs to all - rich and poor, Catholic and non-Catholic - who come to see it. More good is being done, and more money being raised for the poor, by keeping the chapel as is and charging a modest fee to people to see it, than would ever result from trying to sell the place.

As for helping the poor - NO organisation on the planet spends more on the poor than the Catholic Church - not remotely close!


The opulence of the Church is highly regrettable, and in this regard the Church is definitely in need of reform. However to suggest that the Church cold “wipe out” third world debt is just ridiculous.


I disagree with you on this point, and I think most people would.

It’s worth noting that in many poor countries, when missionaries have come in and tried to sell off things from the church in order to get money to build schools, hospitals etc., the poor people have protested. They want the church to be beautiful so that it may give more glory to God, and they don’t mind being a little bit poorer so that this can be so.


Could you maybe reply to your co-workers about their own possessions? That is, if they start in about how “rich” the Pope is and how the Vatican’s wealth could end hunger, you might point out a possession of theirs (a nicer home, newer vehicle, spendy clothing and jewelry, etc.) and how if they down-sized themselves they could easily contribute to their neighborhood food shelf. :thumbsup:


I would be very interested to see any support you may have for this assertion.


This thing about ‘selling the giving to poor’ was already answered by Christ when Judas made a similar one on the precious oil in alabaster jar. To the malicious mind, it was a luxury but Christ explained why it was not luxury when applied to God…Unless one insists Judas was right.


Ask you friend if Chicago could wipe out all world debt “in an instant”. The answer is, “NO”.
**The Catholic Church operates on an annual budget about the size of the City of Chicago. We have over 1 billion members. **
Finally, the Catholic Church is THE largest charitable organization IN THE WORLD.
Not much left over for the Pope, wouldn’t you say?


I am rich because I am Catholic: all the Catholic churches in the world belong to me, and everything in them. I have walked into churches all over this country and Europe without a word to anyone and joined in the Mass, and rejoiced in my universal heritage. I, and every Catholic, belong in those buildings; their wealth is our wealth. Not only does the treasure of the Catholic Church not belong privately to any pope or churchman; it actually belongs to you and me, bought and paid for to the greater glory of God by our forefathers and brothers in the Faith. We are one big family, and those are family heirlooms, those marble statues, pricey real estate and priceless paintings. By extension, they belong also to our separated brothers, and to all the world, along with the grace flowing out from Christ, through the Church to the full members of the Church, and out to all those who are members in less full and remote ways.

When any of it is sold, the money disappears instantly, and the need remains. Meanwhile, our art treasure becomes a good now private to some person or agency; a common good has been demoted into a private good.

Some of the motive behind this criticism is greed for the real estate, the paintings and items. Some of the motive is sheer prejudice and ill-will towards the Catholic church.


Well you don’t have to go far to find support for flopfoot’s assertion. Go into any small village throughout mexico or South America for that matter! These people love their Churchs, the whole community comes together to make these buildings as beautiful and rich as they can. They do this for the glory of God because they know what lies inside the tabenacle. Jesus himself told Judas that it was alright to give Glory to God in this way! Why do you have a problem with it then?



Is the Pope Catholic?


One has to remember that the works of art, tapestries, sculptures, very old books and writings, in the Vatican are priceless. They cannot simply be sold because they are very much beyond worth. Moreover, they don’t belong to any one individual, but are a part of World Heritage.

In fact, it costs the Holy See money to keep these important items safe and preserved for posterity.

The Church is one of the most charitable organisations in the world. It always will be as this represents Christ’s mandate and the Church’s social teaching.

Kindly direct your coworkers to all of the many wonderful Catholic charities that are doing a wonderful job across the world. If they really believe in helping the poor, ask them to donate. We all need to do our part.


He is Catholic. He is not rich. Didn’t you see the news reports of what possessions John Paul II left in his will? He left his notes to his secretary, and I forget what else. A few little items. No money, no valuables. That means nothing to you? His precious ring was broken after his death. That’s because it didn’t belong to him, so it wasn’t his to pass on. It is worn as a symbol of office. His apartment is inhabited now by another temporary tenant, our great new pope.

There is another way to see if you have good will.


Also asking why the pope has a large jewelled ring when there are people starving.

Actually, if you look at his ring, which can be seen here:

We can see there are no jewells on it, but it is made of gold. Gold is currently selling for $662 per ounce, so if it has a pound of gold (extreme assumption, I know) it is worth at most $10,592. Not much debt could be wiped out with that.


Another important thing to take into account is that the Vatican material property does not belong to the POPE, so he cannot just give it away. It belongs to all the faithful (~1 billion catholics) around the world.

What the Vatican has have been gifts received over centuries. Who is the pope or even today’s church officials to give away what others gave for a special purpose.

The pope does have control over the vatican treasury and the Pope uses it whenever is needed. For instance, during WWII, Pope Pius XII depleted the Vatican treasury to try to save the Jews in Italy. This is a well known fact.

Many blessings,



No kidding – that wouldn’t even be a third of my student loans! :eek:

Here’s a link to JPII’s Testament.



I, for one, do not regret the opulence of the Church. Considering the fact that God demanded the purest gold to house His written Word, I would expect a certain degree of opulence to house His Son. The opulence of the Church is a glorification of God, not of the Pope. Furthermore, it isn’t the deep pockets of the Church that built all the grand Cathedrals. They were built by the sweat and donations of the pious, and I don’t believe for a moment that any of those who worked on, say, Notre Dame, would want it sold to go to the poor.

Now if you want to get me on a rant, let’s just talk about selling the assets of the Church. The majority of the money of the Church is tied up in real estate and art which are on display for the public. It is a public treasure, and people actually want to sell it and give it to the poor? While were at it… shall we sell everything in the Louvre? how about the Smithsonian? I’ll bet the Constitution of the US will fetch a pretty penny…er…how much of a price tag should we put on it? How much should we charge for the Sistine Chapel…maybe a Wal-Mart can move into it, eh?


I’m guessing more like less than an ounce.

I guess those who object will be seling their weeding rings too?


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