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Vatican has signed sale contract for London building at heart of fraud trial

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican said on Friday (Jan 28) it had signed a contract to sell a luxury building, in an exclusive London neighbourhood, which is at the heart of an ongoing corruption trial.

Economy minister Father Antonio Guerrero told Vatican media that the Holy See had received a 10 per cent deposit and that the sale of 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea should be concluded in June.

Guerrero did not give any figures but said the loss on the sale after "an alleged swindle" had been taken into account in the Vatican's projected budget for this year.

The Vatican's Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy added that the building was being sold for more than it had recently been valued at, without giving further detail.

Media estimates have said the likely loss to the Vatican would be in the region of 100 million euros (US$111 million).

Ten people, including a Vatican cardinal and two Italian financial brokers are on trial in the Vatican on charges including embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and extortion.

The trial began in July last year but is still dealing with procedural issues.

Guerrero said that Peter's Pence, made up of contributions from the faithful around the world and taken up in parishes, was continuing to fall. He said this was mostly because the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically reduced church attendance.

The estimated amount of about 37 million euros in the fund for 2021 was down more than 15 per cent over 2020, which was down 18 per cent over 2019. That followed a 23 per cent reduction between 2015 and 2019.

"This should make us think about other methods of soliciting the help of the faithful and receiving donations ... We certainly need a plan to improve revenues. There is a limit to the reduction of expenses," he said, referring to a string of cost-cutting measures at the Vatican, including pay cuts for cardinals.

Many Catholics, however, say the fall is not just because of COVID-19 and that they have stopped contributing to Peter's Pence because of financial scandals such as the one surrounding the purchase of the London building. 

Source: Reuters/vc

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