Nobody really knows the answer to this question, mainly because the religious groups of the world do not need and are not required to follow the regular accounting and disclosure rules like the rest. To learn what is familiar with this topic, read the rest of this article.
Therefore, Pope Francis is not just the spiritual leader of arguably the most significant religious group in the world, but also the head of probably the wealthiest institution the world has ever seen. The global spending of the Catholic Church matches the annual revenues of the largest firms in the world. The assets it has are also unreal, including real estate, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Vatican City, and the most significant art pieces in existence. Still, it is surprisingly difficult to understand how rich the church really is. This is due to the fact that church finances are complicated, but also because, at least in the USA, churches do not make financial reports.
The main thing that is familiar regarding the Catholic Church finances and cash flow terms, is that the United States branch is the most important. America is a very rich country and has a large population of Catholics that is actually a religious minority. Therefore, instead of using politics money to influence the shape of mainstream government institutions, they have created a web of schools, hospitals, universities, and charities. All of these combined serve millions of people.
A 2012 investigation by the Economist I our best insight here, which calculated a sum of $170 billion in annual spending, of which nearly $150 billion are for hospitals and higher education. The operating budget of parishes of roughly $11 billion a year is not a significant share here, while the Catholic Charities are an even smaller part.
To compare, Apple and General Motors had revenues of some $150 billion worldwide in the fiscal year of 2012. Legally speaking, “the Catholic Church” does not exist, which is why their finances are complicated. They are essentially a corporation sole, which is a legal corporation controlled by an individual bishop instead of a board of directors. They are also not an official part of a larger transnational spiritual organization.
The individual parishes are operating under the umbrella of a relevant bishop, and they have financial autonomy. They are free to hold separate fundraising and have separate expenses. This way, their donors feel they are bolstering their own community and not the bureaucracy. However, it is also common for the parish investment funds to be pooled together. When one diocese declares bankruptcy, it raises the question of if these pooled funds can be seized by the creditors, or if they exist separately.
There has been talking about the USA branch. However, several other branches should be mentioned. When we say the Catholic Church, we mostly mean its seat in the Vatican. This is the one whose worth is not and cannot really me estimated in numbers. Experts estimate between 10 and 15 billion US dollars, which is simply too low.
There are however estimates of two other branches, mainly those of Australia and Germany. The Catholic Church of Australia has an estimated worth of 20.9 billion US dollars, while the German branch is worth 25 billion.
Although this is an interesting topic to explore, as are all that try to reveal how much wealth the biggest corporation has, it is an impossible task. The Catholic Church is a too large and complicated religious organization, which has been present for centuries. They have too many assets and artifacts that are priceless in nature, and they will remain that way forever. We must accept that the Catholic Church is inconceivably rich, but we will never know the exact number.