February 22, 2006

Real estate developer with ties to 'Vatican hierarchy' in pursuit of U.S. church property



An Italian-owned Manhattan real estate development company with ties to high-ranking Vatican officials is bidding on properties owned by dozens of U.S. dioceses and religious orders. Some church real estate professionals have questioned the company's tactics, while others praise the firm for its promise to revitalize vacant church property.

The Park Avenue-based Follieri Group, founded nearly three years ago by Raffaello Follieri and his father, Pasquale Follieri, has "entered into contracts for the acquisition of over $100 million of church property in three U.S. cities" and is "actively bidding on an additional quarter billion dollars of church assets," according to the company's Web site.

The business opportunity exploited by the Park Avenue-based Follieri Group is evident: A cash-hungry, land-rich institution (the American church) experiencing a demographic shift among its clientele (parishioners abandoning the inner city) and huge and ongoing liabilities (more than $1 billion has already been paid victims of clergy sex abuse) needs to divest itself of long-held but increasingly unproductive holdings (inner-city parishes and other excess real estate holdings). It's a big business. In Boston alone, an extreme example given the impact of the clergy sex abuse crisis in that archdiocese, the church has sold nearly $200 million in property since Aug. 2003, according to The Boston Globe.

Posted by kshaw at February 22, 2006 09:03 PM