How Much Do Top Religious Leaders Earn?

Religious leaders not only represent some of the most numerous beliefs, but they also tend to manage large amounts of money.

Pope francis

We tell you how much of the money the churches receive goes to their ‘leaders’. Photo: Flickr-Presidency of the Mexican Republic, Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Nelson Andrés Tamayo Gaviria

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According to the Pew Research Center, of the 7.8 billion people in the world, more than 6 billion are believers and the majority are ascribed to some organized religion. So it is not surprising that these religions receive millions of dollars in donations a year. Now, how much of that money do your leaders actually make?

To begin with, it is not always easy to determine who is the leader of a specific religion, since, although some religions have a visible head, as is the case of Catholicism, others have regional or national representatives, as is the case of the Christian Church. Orthodox and Hinduism. It should be noted that not all of them are equally organized or centralized.

Also read: The 5 youngest billionaires of 2021

1. Pope Francis

The papacy is one of the most powerful religious organizations. It was established in the 1st century AD, when, according to Catholic doctrine, Jesus Christ handed over the power of his church to the Apostle Peter. Worldwide there are more than 1,300 million Catholics.

In 1929, the papacy signed an agreement with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, with which a theocratic microstate was created within Rome, the Vatican City. Since then the Pope is not only the Supreme Pontiff of Catholicism, but he is also the Head of State of the Vatican. Despite this, the pope does not receive a real salary, the Church takes care of all his expenses, and he can manage the Vatican's patrimony, an estimated 10 to 15 billion dollars.

2. Cyril I

Cyril I, is the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest Orthodox Christian organization, with some 80 million believers, living mainly in Russia and Ukraine.

The Russian patriarch does not have a fixed salary. However, Cyril I owns a wide range of businesses, inside and outside the Church. According to research published in DW, Cyril I had a fortune of about $ 4 billion in 2006 that he made in part thanks to sales of tobacco and liquor produced in monasteries and businesses owned by the Church. On the other hand, according to the independent Russian media Proekt, in 2020 the patriarch had more than 2.8 million dollars in real estate.

3. Ted NC Wilson


This American pastor is the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a branch of Protestant Christianity with more than 21 million members worldwide.

Wilson has been an Adventist pastor since 1974, according to his official accounts, although there is no information on his salary, he is estimated to have a net worth of between 1 and 5 million dollars.

4. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of Iran and at the same time is the top leader (marŷa) of Shiite Islam. He was one of the protagonists of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, where theocracy was established in the current Islamic republic. Worldwide there are about 250 million Shiite Muslims, about 70 million of them live in Iran.

The Iranian head of state has been in office since 1989 and is considered one of the most powerful men in the Middle East, he has declared himself an enemy of the United States, Israel, and the West. In addition, he performs important functions as a spiritual and clerical head in the country. According to an investigation by Reuters, in 2013 Ali Khamenei had a fortune of about 95 billion dollars. In 2019, the US Embassy in Iran stated that this sum had amounted to more than 200 billion dollars.

5. Dalai Lama


Dalai Lama is the position held by the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism, since 1940, Tenzin Gyatso holds this position, which he obtained when he was only 5 years old. There are approximately 530 million followers of Buddhism and 20 million followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he remains in exile today. Since then he has become a recognized international figure, in 1989 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. As a religious leader, he has no salary but is estimated to have a net worth of more than $ 150 million, according to Forbes. This fortune has been achieved after the publication of dozens of books and participation in conferences and films. Most of that money is donated to charitable causes and to Tibetan refugees.

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