Italy’s financial crisis turns up heat on the Vatican
A Facebook page set up by leftist campaigners in recent weeks asking the Vatican to help ease austerity in Italy has already collected 130,000 supporters. It asks for numerous exemptions given to the Church to be revised.
The Internet mobilisation is all the more striking since the subject is considered absolutely taboo for Italy’s ruling class – both conservative and liberal – which is traditionally wary of criticising the Vatican directly.
One of the proposals being made by campaigners is that the thousands of properties owned by the Church – including vast tracts of prime real estate in the centre of Rome – should no longer be exempt from local housing tax.
Critics say that the properties covered by the exemption include highly profitable enterprises such as hotels and sports complexes.
Weekly news magazine L’Espresso reflected some of the bubbling anger with a headline in its latest issue reading: “Holy Tax Evasion”.
“The law is not the same for everyone,” the magazine said in its piece, accusing successive Italian governments of bowing to the bishops.
The Church also benefits from a yearly share of income tax that Italians can pay to it instead of to the state – the result of an agreement between former prime minister Bettino Craxi and the Vatican dating back to 1984. [more]