It is claimed that the Catholic church owns 20% of all real estate in Italy, and a quarter of all real estate in Rome. Read here. Even assuming this is the lump sum for all the parishes (not just the Holy See), is this figure in the right ballpark?

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    I've removed the bit where you concentrate on value, which is completely irrelevant (the Church owns many invaluable churches which certainly don't have a sensible value estimate). FWIW, I'm Italian and the claim is extremely common.
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 25, 2015 at 22:04
  • Thanks for editing Sklivvz. I was trying to provide whatever information I could find so as to make the claim easier to rebuke but I agree with your point.
    – user189035
    Sep 25, 2015 at 22:09
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    Yes, @Philipp, but the Vatican owns many buildings out of its borders: at the very leasts, churches, monasteries, guest houses for pilgrims, schools, seminaries, more. As for their extent with respect of the whole real estate in Rome and in Italy, I don't know.
    – DaG
    Sep 28, 2015 at 11:03
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    @Philipp: Indeed: this is why I wrote “at the very least”. A present issue in Italian politics is exactly whether the real estate owned by the Vatican should or shouldn't pay normal property taxes.
    – DaG
    Sep 28, 2015 at 11:14
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    Per Kevin Cahill in Who Owns the World: The Surprising Truth About Every Piece of Land on the Planet, the Catholic church retained 5 million acres in direct ownership in Italy outside Rome by the Lateran treaty in 1929 and 1000 acres outside the Vatican but in Rome. This calculation does not include the calculated acres of the Holy See listed here-en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Properties_of_the_Holy_See. Sep 28, 2015 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


Both data are mentioned in several media articles. Two of the most authoritative seem to be a 2010 article on Il Giornale and especially a 2013 article on the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Both attribute the 20% datum (circa il 20% del patrimonio immobiliare in Italia è in mano alla Chiesa, “about 20% of the real estate in Italy is in the hands of the Church”) to the Gruppo Re (a company assisting clergy members in financial activities: see here): se a metà degli anni novanta i beni delle missioni si aggiravano intorno agli 800 miliardi di vecchie lire, oggi dovrebbero valere dieci volte di più. Il patrimonio nazionale immobiliare della Chiesa raggiunge quasi il 22 per cento del totale italiano, proprietà all’estero escluse (“if in mid-1990s the missions' possessions amounted to about 800 billions Lire, now they should be worth ten times as much. The national real estate of the Church comprises almost 22% of the Italian total, excluding the possessions abroad”, in the cited article from Il Giornale).

As for the 25% datum about Rome, Il Sole 24 Ore (as well as other sources) quotes una storica inchiesta che Paolo Ojetti pubblicò sull'Europeo nel lontano 1977 dove riuscì per la prima volta a calcolare che un quarto della città di Roma era di proprietà della Chiesa (“a historical report that Paolo Ojetti published back in 1977 in L'Europeo, where he managed for the first time to reckon that a quarter of the city of Rome belonged to the Church”).


According to Italian Society Reflected in New Vatican Accord, Toledo Blade, 14 October 1984, page 2 of section C:

The Vatican owns 1.8 million acres and an undisclosed number of buildings, apartments and palazzi all over Italy.

So just based upon land area, between 2 and 3%.

See also the US government publication Land Redistribution: One Aspect Of Agrarian Reform in Italy in Foreign agriculture : a review of foreign farm policy, production, and trade, October 1949:

No land will be taken from the 1.1 million acres owned directly by the church and by religious orders, the 667,170 acres owned by welfare agencies, nor from the 2.1 million acres owned by resettlement agencies, nonprofit corporations, and the so-called agrarian associations.

This article cites to Giuseppi Medici— "La Distribuzione della Proprieta Fondiaria in Italia," Volume II, page 46, Institute Nazionale di Economia Agraria, Roma, October 1948.

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    That would be “between 2 and 3%” of the whole area of Italy (about 74.5 million acres), not of its real estate.
    – DaG
    May 31, 2016 at 14:46
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    @DaG as neither you nor OP have defined what "Real Estate" means, that's somewhat a moot point.
    – OrangeDog
    May 31, 2016 at 17:17
  • @DaG A moderator said that "value" was "completely irrelevant" so I answered based on land area. Like the moderator said, I don't see how anyone could place a monetary value on historic Italian churches.
    – DavePhD
    May 31, 2016 at 17:52
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    @OrangeDog: I assumed, at most, a normal dictionary definition for “real estate”: “property consisting of land or buildings”. So, for instance, mountains, forests, natural reserves and the like are generally not considered to be real estate. Moreover, in my answer, I use “real estate” to translate patrimonio immobiliare which, while technically including any “unmoving” possession, is mostly used in Italian for buildings (see for instance the documents of Rome municipality about its patrimonio immobiliare).
    – DaG
    Jun 1, 2016 at 7:31
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    @DavePhD: I see, but the churches are, so to say, the least. The contention is mostly about more mundane residential and commercial buildings (as well as guest houses, hospitals, universities, schools and so on), managed by the Church or leased.
    – DaG
    Jun 1, 2016 at 7:35

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