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Document Release Ahead Of Real Estate Fraud Trial Shows Vatican Owns 5,170 Properties

Pope Francis

The trial over the Vatican's London real estate deal-gone-sour hasn't even officially begun, and already it has given the world an unprecedented look inside the geographic and spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Administration of the Patrimony in the Holy See, or APSA, released its first-ever public budget ahead of its trial in which 10 defendants, including a formerly high-ranking cardinal, stand accused of multiple charges, Reuters reports. The APSA budget lists 4,051 properties in Italy and 1,120 elsewhere in the world.

The trial, conducted by the Court of First Instance in the Vatican City State in a makeshift courtroom within the Vatican Museums, is set to have its initial hearings Tuesday and Wednesday before an anticipated months-long suspension, the Associated Press reports. The pretrial disclosure also included a consolidated financial statement for the Holy See.

About 40% of the Vatican-owned buildings in Italy are institutional buildings like schools, hospitals and convents, but only 14% were leased at market rate, Reuters reports. Many of the below-market leases are to Catholic Church employees. Outside of Italy, the Vatican's holdings include luxury properties in Geneva, Paris, London and the Swiss city of Lausanne.

The disclosures represent a "turning point" in the financial transparency of the Vatican, according to a statement by the head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, or SPE, Reuters reports. Pope Francis removed the control of the Vatican's purse strings from the Secretariat of State and transferred it to APSA last year, with SPE providing oversight.

The Vatican's London property at the center of the trial is the office building at 60 Sloane Ave., where a deal struck between Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu and Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi was ostensibly supposed to give the Vatican full ownership. Instead, Torzi was given full voting control over the property, which the Vatican claims was a result of fraudulent dealings.

Torzi met with Francis himself before the deal's closure, as well as Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, who oversaw real estate dealings for the Secretariat of State and whose home was raided last year as part of the investigation. Perlasca has been cooperating with the investigation and has not been charged, the AP reports.

Between payouts to Torzi related to the transfer of ownership and loss of value at 60 Sloane Ave., the Vatican has lost upward of $34M from Peter's Pence, the Catholic Church's central charity.

CORRECTION, JULY 30, 3 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story's headline misidentified the owner of the Vatican's real estate portfolio as the Catholic Church. This article has been updated.