Vatican may face huge tax bill
The head of the Italian bishops’ conference has signalled the Vatican may be willing to examine tax obligations amid new austerity measures in Italy.
As world media reported a growing campaign within the country’s parliament towards seeking taxation on the Vatican’s extensive property portfolio, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco indicated this week that, while tax exemption was a reality enjoyed by Church properties, an examination towards identifying oversights of the system would not be unwelcome.
”The current norms are correct in that they recognise the social value of activities carried out by many non-profits, among them church ones,” he said. ”It’s also correct that if there have been concrete cases in which a tax that should have been paid wasn’t, we should verify the abuse and end it.”
The fresh look at the issue of taxation comes amid moves by Prime Minister Mario Monti to reimpose a house tax on Italians (set aside in 2008) as he works to deal with the country’s financial debts. On two occasions last week, parliamentary colleagues called on him to extend the tax to the Church. The matter is further highlighted by an investigation of the tax issue at European level which has the potential to force Mr Monti’s hand and demand taxes of the Church.
Critics of the tax exempt status for the Church point out that, while it recognises religious freedom and the ‘value-in-kind’ offered by Church-backed clinics for example, the system has been manipulated by certain monasteries and convents which are effectively bed and breakfasts for profit, while Church-owned hotels can be exempt if they contain a chapel.
The Holy See’s secretary for relations with states has called for the establishment of an annual world day against the persecution of Christians.
During an address to the Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vilnius, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said: ”There may be more than two hundred million Christians, of different denominations, who are in difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination.”
A world day against persecution and discrimination, would be, he asserted, ”an important sign that governments are willing to deal with this serious issue”.
An elderly priest received a serious beating during the course of a robbery at his church in Chicago.
Fr Daniel Mallette, who is 80, received broken ribs and a swollen face when he was set upon by two burglars who attacked him in his bed in the parochial house of St Margaret of Scotland Church.
The men forced the priest to hand over $600 as he reportedly recited the Act of Contrition. Ironically, as the men left the battered priest, one said to him: ”This might sound ridiculous, but could you pray for me?” A $5,000 reward has been offered towards the arrest of the thieves.
The retired prelate of the Byzantine Diocese of Passaic, New Jersey, has died following a car crash. Bishop Andrew Pataki, who was 84, was seriously injured in the accident and transferred to Jersey Shore University Medical Centre where he later died.
Bishop Pataki led his diocese from 1996 to 2008. The Passaic diocese covers Byzantine and Ruthenian Catholics living in New England and on the east coast of the United States. May he rest in peace.
The official investigation into a case of intercession by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen has concluded.
Last Sunday, investigators forwarded to the Vatican their findings in relation to the case of James Fulton Engstrom, who was originally stillborn, but breathed to life after 61 minutes of prayer to the archbishop by his parents Travis and Bonnie. Marking the end of the investigation with a special Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky hailed the selfless work of Archbishop Sheen in his lifetime and added: ”Having a man who grew up in central Illinois being considered for sainthood is pretty wonderful.”
Day of prayer
Catholics in the country have observed a day of prayer for a nun arrested over allegations of child trafficking.
Supporters of Sr Eliza continue to protest her innocence following her arrest on November 28 after a police raid on the Prem Nives Moratwa centre where the Missionaries of Charity nun worked.
Though it has been reported that the Sri Lankan government has offered an unofficial apology to the order over the raid and arrest, a first hearing of the charges against Sr Eliza was scheduled for December 15, despite calls from the Church locally for her to be immediately released.
A virtual tour of the Church of the Nativity has been launched by Bethlehem town authorities.
The website offers information about church services and events taking place over Christmas, and information about the hospital, children’s homes and other charitable projects there. Virtual pilgrims can make a donation and light a candle in the Nativity Church online. To visit Bethlehem online, go to: http://www. obethlehem.com
A Christian labourer has been jailed for blasphemy for allegedly burning pages of the Koran.
Khurram Masih, who is illiterate, was burning rubbish from a worksite in the Punjab province at the request of his Muslim colleagues when the owner of the site alleged he was burning pages of the Koran as Arabic script was visible on burning pages. Masih was immediately attacked by others and brought to a police station in Saddar.
Though no physical evidence was produced, and Masih explained he was unable to read, he was detained on a charge of blasphemy to face a court. Given the threats others have faced when similarly charged in Pakistan, there are now fears for Masih’s safety, regardless of the outcome of the case.
The Church in the country has called for help from the army in locating a missionary who has gone missing in the jungle.
Vincentian Fr Alfonso Asencios Zuloaga was last seen after visiting a remote jungle community where he said Mass. Trying to undertake his return trip, Fr Zuloaga was forced to walk through the jungle as his normal route had been blocked by a landslide.
The walk should have taken some six hours, but the priest has not reappeared.
Friends and fellow missionaries undertook a search for the priest before Bishop Rafael Escudero Lapez-Brea issued an appeal for army assistance.
The country’s Catholic bishops have announced that the relics of the late Blessed Pope John Paul II will visit the capital Bogota for two days in January.
Sent by Pope Benedict as a symbol of his solidarity with Colombia, the relics will arrive on January 20 and be made open for veneration at the Cathedral of Bogota before moving to the studios of the country’s Cristovision Catholic television network.
On January 21 the relics will again be venerated at the parish of Mary Queen of Heaven.
Call for calm
The Orthodox Church in the country has called for calm among those protesting against alleged voting fraud in recent elections.
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the chief spokesman for the Moscow patriarchate acknowledged the ”serious questions” around the issue but urged protestors not to resort to violence. ”The most important thing now,” he said, ”is to maintain civil peace and not allow a new 1905, 1917, 1991, 1993.”
The allegations of corrupt practices around the presidential elections led to the biggest mass demonstrations seen in Russia for a generation.
A parliamentary study group has hinted at a stumbling block to plans to amend the rule barring a British monarch from marrying a Catholic. While favourable to the change, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee nevertheless pointed out that, given the likelihood that a monarch might be required to raise children of a Catholic union as Catholics, this raised the possibility that the same children would be barred from the British throne, as the monarch is required to be the head of the Anglican Church.
A team of archaeologists claims to have found the location of Noah’s Ark. The team, drawn from Hong Kong and Turkey, says it has made findings at a glacier near the summit of Mt Ararat, in keeping with descriptions offered in both the Bible and Koran. Towards communicating the find, the group has established a website: http://noahsarkfound .com/