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Pope Francis to Church - Help the needy or pay taxes

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Pope Francis calls out churches who are using facilities as profit centers instead of helping the poor.

Serve the poor, or else, was the message Pope Francis sent to churches and religious orders, chastising them for putting profits over people. Churches that do not serve the poor should be taxed, he explained.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (
9/16/2015 (8 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Pope Francis, taxes, church, profit, chapels, Italy, interview

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis' criticism of churches and religious orders was intended for those in Italy, but there's little doubt his sentiment applies globally. The purpose of a parish is to serve others, especially the poor. When a parish or an order serves itself, it serves nobody and the best it can do is pay taxes to the state.

His comment, delivered in an interview with Portuguese Catholic media outlet, Ranascenca, was the result of his frustration with the Church in Italy after he asked them to take in refugees. This isn't associated with his most recent call to house Syrian refugees, but actually dates back to a request he made two years ago, asking churches across the country to house refugees, a situation that was already alarming at the time.

To date, just four churches reported they were housing displaced people.

It has become popular for churches to run old monasteries and other facilities for profit. Monasteries become hotels, and they remain tax exempt in Italy because they have a chapel attached.

Pope Francis said, "Some religious orders say 'No, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests, and support ourselves that way, or make money.' Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business."

The Church has over 100,000 structures and $10 billion in property in Italy. Italian law allows for a tax exemption if the property contains a chapel. This means an enterprising individual could convert a monastery to a hotel, and avoid taxes by maintaining the chapel.

Pope Francis expects the Church to use its holdings to serve the poor. If a church isn't going to serve the poor, but rather itself, then it should at least be honest about its profiteering and pay taxes.

Although Pope Francis was speaking to the Italian Church, you can rest assured the rest of the Church is listening.


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