The Patrimony of St. Peter

This denotes the material wealth and possessions of the Chuch of Rome. Historically it refers to gifts of land given to the Holy See in 754 and 756 by Pepin* the Short. These gifts comprised what was later known as the Papal States.* Pepin's gift is significant in that it launched the temporal power of the bishop of Rome, and its correlating events were the beginning of Rome's claim to papal supremacy over the crowns of France and Germany. Papal temporal power over this vast part of Italy ended in 1870, when during the Italian Risorgimento King Victor Emmanuel took possession of Rome as the capital of free and united Italy. Papal economic power was restored, however, by Mussolini when he signed the 1929 Lateran Treaty.* This declared Rome a holy city, returned it to the spiritual domination of the Church of Rome, established the autonomous Vatican State, and granted the Holy See $90 million reparations for lands lost in 1870. These monies were invested in the economy of Italy and abroad.

Estimates in 1971 declared the Vatican to be the world's largest business corporation, and Nino Lo Bello puts the Vatican wealth in 1970 at $5.6 billion. In 1962 the Italian parliament investigated the Vatican's power over the Italian economy, and made the Roman Catholic Church liable for corporate taxes on its investments. The European Common Market ruled in December 1970 that the Vatican is ineligible for tax privileges inside the Common Market. Paul VI modernized the Vatican's financial administration in 1968 by establishing the prefecture of economic affairs of the Holy See, and under the prefecture he created the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See. This latter office is responsible for overseeing the Vatican's worldwide investments.