Germany’s Catholic Church received a record £5.3 billion (€6 billion) in tax money last year, a newspaper investigation has found.

The country’s 27 dioceses also have a fortune of at least £23 billion, including large investments in real estate and equities, making the German Church probably the wealthiest Catholic institution in Europe other than the Vatican.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that despite more than 2.2 million Germans formally deregistering from the Church since 2000, the country’s strong economy had helped boost tax revenue to record levels.

Under the country’s church tax laws, the government deducts a levy of eight to nine per cent from the income of registered church members and hands it to the country’s various churches, including the Catholic Church.

As well as receiving the large sums from registered Catholics, the German Church has numerous assets and investments.

Handelsblatt said that the Church has total financial investments of £13 billion, and of at least £18 billion in fixed assets such as real estate and equities. The diocese with the highest equity is Paderborn, which has £3.1 billion, followed by Munich-Freising with £2.5 billion, and Cologne with £2.3 billion.

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