A retired financier who is not religious has given a gift of over $27 million to charitable works of the archdiocese of New York because "without the Roman Catholic church there would be no Western civilisation".
Describing him as an atheist, Catholic World News reports that Robert Wilson has given the sum to a program that will pay tuition for needy children attending New York's parochial schools.
A publicity-shy former Wall Street investor, Mr Wilson told the New York Sun that he hope the gift will inspire others "to pony up."
Cardinal Edward Egan called the donation a "historic and farsighted support" of his inner-city scholarship campaign, started in 2005.
The gift is the largest single donation ever recorded by the Church in New York.Explaining his decision to make the grant to a Catholic charity, Mr Wilson pointed out that his money would be used to pay for the education of children, rather than for specifically religious purposes.
While he is not religious, Mr Wilson indicated a deep respect for the Catholic faith. "Let's face it," he told a reporter, "without the Roman Catholic Church there would be no Western civilisation."
Mr Wilson, who is retired and in his 80s, according to the archdiocese, is one of the nation's major philanthropists, ABC 7 says.
According to Business Week, he has also contributed millions to environmental and wildlife conservation causes, the New York Public Library and the city's arts institutions.
He reportedly made his money on Wall Street by turning a $15,000 investment into $225 million.
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