For most of us, it’s a given that the Catholic Church is rich. Proofs of that are their sprawling acres of land, large Church structures and buildings, and millions of pesos of cash collected from mass goers every week.

What a lot of people do not know, though, is that part of the Church’s wealth is its investment in the stocks of several Philippine companies. In fact, reports submitted to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) show that the Church and affiliate Catholic groups are the top stockholders in companies such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philex Mining Corporation (PX), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Ayala Corporation (AC), and Phinma Corporation (PHN), among others. 

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, for example, owns more than 300 million shares of BPI and is the bank’s 4th largest owner. How much are these shares worth? As of May 2011, this is valued at more than Php17 billion. Yes, that’s seventeen billion pesos, with a B.

Aside from banking, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, together with its subsidiary hospitals and companies, is also invested in mining and construction.

As of March 31, 2011, it is the top 15th shareholder of Philex Mining Corporation (PX), the country’s biggest mining firm. It owns 3.2 million shares of PX currently worth more than P66 million.
It is also a top investor of Concrete Aggregates Corp. (CA), a supplier of construction materials such as processed aggregates, ready mix concrete and crushed sand. Its investment in CA is currently valued at around P4.5 million.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila is not the only diocese invested in Philippine stocks. Other dioceses with millions of pesos worth of stock investments include; Roman Catholic Bishop of Tuguegarao, Cagayan – owns 856,639 shares of SMC worth P94 million, Nueva Segovia de Vigan – owns 428,067 shares of SMC worth P47 million, Jaro, Iloilo – owns 491,385 shares of BPI worth a total of P28 million, Bishop of Tuguegarao, Cagayan – owns 24,015 shares of Ayala Corp worth P9.3 million

Several affiliate Catholic groups apparently also have huge investments in Philippine companies. More than P500 million pesos worth of San Miguel Corp (SMC)‘s shares, for example, are owned by three (3) Catholic groups:

  •    El Superior de la Corporacion Filipina de Padres Agustinos Recoletos – 2.37 million shares worth P260.7 million
•    Superior de la Corporacion Archicofradia de N.P.J.N de Recoletos – 1.23 million shares worth P136 million
•    Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague, Inc. – 957,000 shares worth P105 million

All this talk of stock investments is merely the tip of the iceberg since the listing only includes the Church’s investments in PSE-traded firms. We do not know how much more it has invested in private corporations, in companies outside the Philippines, in bonds, in time deposit accounts or in real estate properties.

Yes, we understand that the Church has to invest its money in various assets, including stocks. We do not contend that and we recognize its right to invest their money anywhere they want. Actually, this is good because this shows that the Church is financially-literate.

Apart from shaping the morality of the people, the Church should also do its part in providing financial education to its flock. The weekly Sunday sermons should, therefore, include not just lessons about being morally upright. The Church should also convince mass goers to work and pursue livelihood and to get rid of their sole dependence on God (“Bahala na ang Diyos sa amin”).

The Church should educate its people about the value of earning, saving and investing money and not condone Catholics who are already contented in life even if they are penniless (“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”).

More importantly, we believe the Catholic Church should play a more pivotal and proactive role in helping solve the ills of the country. The billions of pesos of investments (as seen in the table below) can go a long way in uplifting the lives of poor Filipino people who, admittedly, form the critical mass of supporters of the Catholic Church.

Yes, the Church is already doing its share by running hospitals and orphanages, by providing assistance to those who come to them for help, and by offering moral guidance.

But they can do more and they should do more. They owe it to the millions of Filipinos who went to Church every Sunday and donated the billions of pesos that the Church now owns.

(source: PMT)