German Archdiocese Of Cologne Reveals $3.8 Billion Fortune

Berlin — The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Cologne published financial accounts Wednesday, showing for the first time the full extent of its worldly wealth.

The archdiocese has long been considered Germany's richest, but exact figures weren't known because the church never published its accounts. Documents posted on its website show Cologne had assets of 3.35 billion euros ($3.82 billion) at the end of 2013.

Some 2.4 billion euros were invested in stocks, funds and company holdings. A further 646 million euros were held in tangible assets, mostly property. Cash reserves and outstanding loans amounted to about 287 million euros.

In 2013, the archdiocese received 573 million euros from church taxes paid by the 2 million Catholics living in the region around Cologne, famous for its Gothic cathedral. After adding other income and subtracting expenses — such as salaries — it generated a surplus of 59 million euros.

The archdiocese's finance chief, Hermann J. Schon, described the publication as "a big step toward financial transparency." It follows criticism of Germany's Catholic Church in the wake of a recent scandal over the former bishop of Limburg's lavish spending.

Pope Francis has stressed the need for the church to show humility and emphasize its work for the poor.

The Cologne archdiocese published its accounts on Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, the period of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter week.