As we sit here watching the pomp and circumstance of the Papal Conclave taking place at the Vatican, this writer is reminded of how really serious this election is to those not only in the Roman Catholic religion but the entire world economy. These 115 cardinals are electing the new spiritual leader of almost 1.2 billion people as well as the next "CEO" of the world's largest business. Over the past 100 years, the election process has never lasted more than five days. 2/3 majority will decide the election. 77 votes. Wow. Never has so much been decided on 77 votes.
Since this writer is not catholic, I do not profess to understand the issues that face the Roman Catholic church, but there are many in the news these days. However I do know, this church that Jesus Christ started, is at a crossroads and as the largest christian religion in the world, its leadership is incredibly important to the entire christian nation...especially now.
Let's turn to the economic impact of the Pope's election. The Roman Catholic church is big business. Who they elect as CEO will determine, in theory, how the business is run, which in turn could have a ripple effect over the entire world economy...especially healthcare. The Catholic Church is the largest provider of health services in the world. In 2010, the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers said that the Church manages 26% of health care facilities in the world, including hospitals, clinics, orphanages, pharmacies and centres for those with leprosy
According to a recent Economist story, "The Roman Catholic church is the world’s oldest multinational. It is also, by many measures, its most successful, with 1.2 billion customers, 1m employees, tens of millions of volunteers, a global distribution network, a universally recognised logo, unrivalled lobbying clout and, auguring well for the future, a successful emerging-markets operation."
Some other interesting financial facts from the National Post:
- 1 The symbolic value, in euros, of the buildings in Vatican City. The church uses this number to indicate they are priceless and could never be sold. They include: the Apostolic Palace, the pope’s official residence; the Sistine Chapel, best known for murals by Botticelli and Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling and the famous Last Judgment behind the altar; and St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world erected over the supposed burial site of the apostle St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome.
- 716,290 The amount of Church-owned land, in square kilometres, across the globe — an area slightly bigger than Alberta. Properties include Vatican embassies, churches, cathedrals, monasteries, some schools and convents.
- 10 Reported investment (in billions of dollars) in foreign companies by the Institute of Religious Works (the Vatican bank) in the 1990s. It has holdings in such industries as banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction and real estate. It only invests in companies that operate according to Catholic morals. For example, it will not invest in a pharmaceutical company that produces birth control.
- 86 In millions of dollars, Peter’s Pence in 2011. The Vatican’s most important source of ready cash is made up of donations from parishes across the globe. The money is spent on humanitarian projects, including disaster relief, medical aid, and help to the poor in developing nations, children and refugees.
- 22.4 In millions of dollars, the approximate value of almost one metric tonne of gold owned by the Holy See in 2008.
- 308 In millions of dollars, the Vatican’s revenue in 2011. It spent $326.4-million, but ended the year with a $27-million surplus.
- 31 In millions of dollars, the amount seized from the Vatican bank by Italian authorities during an investigation into money laundering.
- 2 In billions of dollars, the amount paid out as settlements by the church for sex-abuse allegations in the United States.
That is some hefty coin folks. Time to sit and wait for the smoke...