Cardinal Advocates Transparency in Church Finances

Stresses Co-Responsibility to Support Clergy

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ROME, FEB. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The use of finances of the Church should be transparent so as to support its credibility, says Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

The archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference stated this Tuesday in Rome during the opening address of the 16th National Congress of Diocesan Officials, an initiative of the conference's Service for the Promotion of the Financial Support of the Catholic Church.

The cardinal said that the system of financial support of the Catholic Church should be founded on two pillars: "co-responsibility," which nourishes the sense of belonging to the Church as "house and school of communion," and "transparency," as an "indispensable and necessary condition."

Before an agreement signed between the Italian state and the Catholic Church in 1984, which revised their concordat, the Church's sources of financing in Italy were the faithful's voluntary offerings, and direct financing by the state through stipends given only to some priests (such as hospital chaplains and religion teachers) or an adequate salary for bishops, parish priests and canons.

A 1985 law abolished the salary, while the direct financing by the state ceased forever in 1989. Thus the bishops' conference created the Service for the Promotion of Financial Support, a structure of operational and executive support for dioceses.

In 1990, two new forms of financial support were introduced, including the possibility of tax deductible donations for the support of clergy.

Twenty-seven years after the reform of the concordat, which undeniably has marked the relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian state, noted the archbishop of Genoa, the new system of financial support reflects a precise idea of the Church of the Second Vatican Council, rooted in the evangelical and faithful message to teachers:

"the principle of the Church as mystery of communion."

Communion

Because of this, added the cardinal, "co-responsibility must become the style through which all the faithful, laypeople, consecrated persons, priests, feel themselves members of their community and because of this contribute actively to do their part to build it, also putting at its disposition their goods on the basis of effective possibilities."

He affirmed, "We are all active protagonists of a mystery of love that springs from communion itself, which is God who makes himself present in the history of man precisely through our concrete persons, called with their direct and involved responsibility to realize and witness in an ever new and beautiful way the living of the life: fraternal communion which is the Church."

Cardinal Bagnasco emphasized the need for transparency as well: "Today more than ever a limpid transparency, above all in the use of money, is an indispensable condition for the general credibility of the Church and for the fruitful carrying out of its mission in the world."

"In speaking of transparency," he continued, "the intention is not so much to stress honesty and correctness, which within the Church should be taken for granted, but rather a linear management of goods verifiable by all, remembering that the financial dimension is among the most delicate and influential on the life and feeling of men."

To this end, the prelate added, "the success of the concrete ways of financial help to the Church," depends "in a vital way on the effective transparency of the management of the resources that are received in donation."

"Transparency in operating is solidly linked to fidelity to the Church, to its nature and its identity, to the vocation received and to the evangelizing mission," he stressed.

The cardinal appealed for "a new season of aid" as a great formative occasion to make the true meaning grow of a Church that "educates and sustains mature Christians in the faith, committed to a coherent and generous witness."