Pope Francis, by stating that he would like a poor Church and one for the poor, has set himself a very ambitious task. I, for one, wish him well.
The unashamed opulence of the Sistine Chapel that we were privileged to get sight of during the recent papal election only hints at the true enormity of wealth that is held by the Church.
One can only muse at the true value of the Vatican bank, currently being investigated for money laundering. Due to its own secret practices and the protection afforded to it by Italian law, whatever billions are held there cannot apparently be calculated.
What we do know is that the Vatican owns solid gold bullion worth billions, held with the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve Bank.
It has billions of shares in many international corporations worldwide, estimated in the US alone at around $500m (£330m). Its property portfolio is breathtaking – it owns more than 20% of property in Italy alone.
If even a fraction of the Vatican's assets were liquidated and spread to the world's poorest parishes, this Church would finally be serving those who need its help the most. Perhaps this papacy won't change much traditional Church teaching that many of us would like. But if it can steer the institutional Church away from its arrogant indifference to the true reason it exists, then we have taken the first step in opening the door to continued change.
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