Christianity regards churches as sacred places where followers pray, worship God, and carry out religious practices. Over time, churches have evolved, incorporating fine art, gold, and other rare materials and investing in properties, schools, and other ventures. As the oldest religious institutions, churches have also emerged as one of the wealthiest globally.
Below are the top 10 richest churches in the world.
10Church of Scientology, $2 billion
Church of Scientology is a group of organizations dedicated to practicing and administering Scientology, a defined cult, business, or a new religious movement. Its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, established the first church in New Jersey.
The Church of Scientology receives money primarily through donations and fees for its services and profits from selling books and other materials. Recognized by IRS as a church, it is exempt from paying most taxes, like all other churches. But the government periodically audits its business practices to ensure they comply with those of a tax-exempt organization.
9Opus Dei, $2.8 billion
Opus Dei is an organization within the Catholic Church made up of individuals who strive to live out Christian values in their personal and professional lives and within society. They focus on integrating their spiritual life with their social, family, and work life. The founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, named the organization “Opus Dei,” believing it was God’s work.
Most members are lay people, with only a few priests and no monks or nuns. Apart from their charitable and social work, Opus Dei members also train in Catholic spirituality and manage universities, schools, hospitals, publishing houses, and technical and agricultural training centers.
8Trinity Church, $6 billion
Trinity Church is part of a historic Episcopal parish in Lower Manhattan, New York City. The parish manages two chapels, St. Paul’s Chapel and the Chapel of St. Cornelius, in addition to the main church building. This congregation is famous for its “high church” style and represents White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture in the United States.
Trinity also manages real estate properties, contributing to a combined worth of over $6 billion as of 2019, and its main church building is a National Historic Landmark. It also contributes property to the Wall Street Historic District, which became an NRHP district in 2007.
7Church of Sweden, $11.42 billion
This is an Evangelical Lutheran church in Uppsala, Sweden that follows the teachings and confession of the Catholic Christian faith. The Church of Sweden has around 40 churches in 25 countries worldwide. It is actively involved in international diaconal work, advocacy, and emergency relief in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches.
Additionally, it engaged in international missionary work in collaboration with churches and ecumenical organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. More than 10,000 volunteers in Sweden help to spread awareness, collect funds, and shape opinions for the Church’s international work. It contributes roughly USD 30 million annually for this work.
6Church of England, $11.97 billion
The Church of England is an Anglican Christian church boasts a large following of over 85 million people from more than 165 countries. While it adheres to some customs of Roman Catholicism, it also embraces the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation. In recent times, the Church of England has become more progressive and has adopted relatively liberal policies, such as allowing the ordination of women and gay priests.
The Church follows an episcopal form of government with two provinces: Canterbury and York. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric in the Church. The Church of England Cathedral attracts over 9.4 million visitors annually.
5Catholic Church in Australia, $20.5 billion
The Catholic Church in Australia is a branch of the global Catholic Church, governed and led by the Holy See. It comprises the largest Christian denomination in Australia, with over 19.9% of the population identifying as Catholic. The church is the country’s largest non-governmental education and welfare services provider.
Every year, Catholic Social Services Australia supports approximately 450,000 individuals. The church has 175 Catholic religious orders operating in Australia, affiliated with Catholic Religious Australia. According to a 2018 investigation by The Age, the assets and investments of the Australian Catholic Church in Victoria alone were worth over AUD 9 billion.
4Catholic Church in France, $23 billion
The Roman Catholic Church in France is a part of the global Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Pope in Rome. Since its establishment in the 2nd century, it maintained an uninterrupted connection with the bishop of Rome.
The Catholic Church in France has 98 dioceses, with approximately 45,000 chapels and Catholic church buildings across the country. However, most of these churches do not hold regular masses. Some famous churches in France are Notre Dame de Paris, Reims Cathedral, Chartres Cathedral, and Amiens Cathedral. Lourdes, the national shrine, attracts around 5 million pilgrims every year.
3Catholic Church in Germany, $26 billion
The Catholic Church in Germany is the world’s richest branch of the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the Pop. One of Germany’s most well-known religious landmarks is the Cologne Cathedral, a part of the Catholic Church in Germany. The state legally deducts church tax from all Christian taxpayers who declare their religious affiliation.
The money deducted goes to the relevant Catholic church in the state where the taxpayer lives. Because of the church tax, other sources of income, and significant real estate holdings, the Catholic Church in Germany holds a net worth of approximately $26 billion, making it the fourth wealthiest religious organization worldwide.
2Catholic Church Vatican, $33 billion
In the 4th century AD, a basilica constructed over the grave of St. Peter in Rome established Vatican City as the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Over time, it became a popular pilgrimage site and commercial hub, although the papal court moved to France for a while. Significant religious landmarks like the Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace, and the new St. Peter’s Basilica were also constructed within the city limits.
Vatican City remains the spiritual center for 1.2 billion Catholic followers and the pope’s residence. It is the smallest independent nation-state, covering 109 acres within a 2-mile border, and also has another 160 acres in remote locations under the pope’s jurisdiction.
1The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, $100 billion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination that follows the Mormon tradition and does not believe in the Trinity. It is commonly called the LDS Church or Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, the United States. The church has instituted congregations and built temples all around the world.
As per its records, it has more than 17 million members and over 60,000 full-time volunteer missionaries. It is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States as of 2012. The church is considered the world’s wealthiest, with an approximate net worth of over $100 billion.