Pope to priests, nuns: Help refugees or pay taxes
MANILA, Philippines – In a message that resounds across the globe, Pope Francis is warning religious orders or communities of priests and nuns in Europe: Shelter refugees or pay taxes.
In an interview published Monday, September 14, Francis said the Vatican itself has identified two refugee families to shelter. He told Radio Renascença, a Portuguese radio station, that these families will stay in the Vatican “as long as the Lord wants.”
The Pope 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!”
In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a community of priests, nuns, or brothers. The Pope, for example, comes from the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, a religious order that runs schools like the Philippines' Ateneo de Manila University.
Francis added in his radio interview: “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.”
This comes after the Pope, on September 6, urged every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a refugee family as the continent faces a refugee crisis.
His message on Radio Renascença echoes in other parts of the world.
The Catholic Church, for one, enjoys a tax-exempt status in countries such as the Philippines. Many other countries, too, face the challenge of helping people displaced by conflict, such as the Lumad or indigenous people in the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao. (READ: CBCP dares Aquino admin: Probe Lumad killings)
Pope hits ‘unjust’ economic system
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, for his part, told Filipinos that Catholics should not play “blind, deaf, and mute” to the needs of refugees.
Still, Francis clarified that by urging Catholic communities to shelter a refugee family, he doesn’t mean “that they should go and live in the priest’s house, in the rectory.”
Instead, he means “that each parish community should see if there is a place, a corner in the school which can be turned into a small apartment or, if necessary, that they may rent a small apartment for this family; but that they should be provided with a roof, welcomed and integrated into the community.”
The Pope explained: “What I asked was that in each parish and each religious institute, every monastery, should take in one family. A family, not just one person. A family gives more guarantees of security and containment, so as to avoid infiltrations of another kind.”
This issue is close to the Pope’s heart because he himself is a son of Italian migrants.
“These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg, ecause underneath that is the cause,” the Pope told the Portuguese radio station.
“And the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system,” he said. “That is the dominant economic system nowadays. It has removed the person from the center, placing the god money in its place.” – Rappler.com