Is someone richer than the Catholic Church

How much money do the churches have? : The cross with the billions

The boss was not very good at talking to his people. The Pope advised the Church to “evade the world”, and she would then be able to fulfill her “missionary duty” much better. Ideally, the Holy Father reflected, she would be "freed from her material and political burdens." You are too attached to organizations and habits and have forgotten something important - that you are just out of this world.

The pontiff who spoke to his flock in this way was still called Benedict, it was during his visit to Germany a good two years ago. Today some Catholic bishops might wish that the man from Rome had prevailed. Ever since the republic marveled at the Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst and his luxurious official residence, the faithful have suspected how rich the churches actually are. Many ask what happens to the valuable property and its rich fruits - and why no one knows exactly about it.

One thing is certain: the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are swimming in money. Over the centuries they have amassed an impressive fortune. And they are an important economic factor: around a million people work on behalf of the Lord, only the state employs more people. They help the church rent apartments, cultivate forests, brew beer, organize trips, give loans, produce films, raise children, care for the sick, and much more.

One of the largest items in the shepherds' portfolio is the Catholic Weltbild publishing house. Trash literature is on offer as well as slimming tea and an impact wrench. The last 6,800 employees generated sales of almost 1.6 billion euros. Thousands of tenement houses are also owned by the bishops, and the Aachener Siedlungs- und Wohnungsgesellschaft Köln has over 30,000 units alone. The clergy have films produced (“Tatort”, “Schwarz intervenes”) and relevant radio broadcasts (“Domradio”). Beer (“Kloster Andechs”) is on offer as well as wine and mineral water (“Adelholzener”). Of course you also take care of your dear money - that is what institutions like the “Pax Bank”, the “League Bank” or insurance companies like “Bruderhilfe” do. Catholics and Protestants also operate day-care centers, hospitals, old people's homes and schools. Here, too, no benefits are distributed - social funds, the state and fee payers take care of the financing.

In addition, there are inheritances, capital assets and real estate that have accumulated over time. The Protestants, not even poor church mice, call extensive fields and forests their own. Its area is three and a half times the size of Berlin. In addition to thousands of parish and rectory houses, cathedrals and churches, mostly in prime locations, are also valuable. The Berlin Cathedral, for example, is valued at 190 million euros - but of course there is no real market for such places of worship.

Both denominations are silent about the total value of their possessions. Neither the 27 (arch) dioceses nor the 20 Protestant regional churches give comprehensive figures. The Catholic bishops only have to give an account of part of their finances. It is true that numerous dioceses recently opened the books under the pressure of the events in Limburg. The result, however, was rather meager sums of millions - probably only part of the wealth. This is also due to the fact that most of the figures have not yet been converted from cameralistic to modern bookkeeping.

Carsten Frerk tried to appreciate the property of the two large churches. The political scientist comes to 435 billion euros - 150 billion in money and shares, 220 billion in real estate (excluding churches) and 65 billion in foundations and other assets. "Money means power, and the church doesn't want to document that," says Frerk. In addition, he says, donations should decrease if it dawned on the faithful that alms were not necessary at all.

Citizens and the state provide considerable donations to ensure that assets do not melt even in times of growing doubts about the good news. From the church tax collected by the state, the Catholic Church received 5.2 billion euros in 2012 and the Protestant church 4.6 billion euros. In addition, there are tax exemptions, the assumption of the costs for religion teachers or denominational schools and much more. Church critic Frerk has calculated that the aid adds up to almost 20 billion euros.

Much of it goes back to the beginning of the 19th century. After Napoleon had conquered parts of Germany, the princes ordered the expropriation of the churches in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803. In return, the state paid compensation. To this day, this is the basis not only for the church tax, but also for the endowments of the states to dioceses and regional churches of 460 million euros per year. The payment of the bishops by the state can also be traced back to this. Many of the shepherds earn like state secretaries, i.e. around 10,000 euros. Church people are still arguing about how to proceed with the finances. The fact that assets are veiled is something that Thomas Entwich, chief financial officer of the Evangelical Church in Germany, doesn't want to know about. “We're not hiding anything. It is all transparent and public. ”It is wrong to think of the church as an enterprise full of riches. "The church uses all income exclusively for church work."

Others are more thoughtful. "The church should create transparency about all its possessions," says the Provost of Cologne, Norbert Feldhoff. For a long time he was vicar general, i.e. head of administration of the powerful diocese. “We have to face the debate about finances.” He believes that wealth is far less than many estimate. If only because of the growing pension burdens for the staff. To part with property and to become a poor church again, as suggested by Pope Benedict, he is skeptical. “We have a responsibility to people. If you suddenly had less money, that would certainly also result in layoffs. "

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