Who holds the keys to the Treasury?
The Greek Orthodox Church owns more land than anyone except the state, employs thousands on the public payroll, has a stake in the nation’s biggest bank, but campaigners say its tax payments are derisory.
The Church vehemently denies accusations it is one of Greece’s biggest tax dodgers and says it is playing a vital social, economic and spiritual role in this time of hardship…
The Greek Orthodox Church has long enjoyed a privileged, some would say cozy, status when it comes to taxes in a country where it is responsible for the sole official religion, with one critic calling its complex finances at best opaque.
But the sovereign debt crisis that has rocked the Greek state, thrown hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and forced painful cuts in salaries, pensions and benefits, has raised fresh questions about the Church’s tax position.
More than 100,000 people have joined a Greek Facebook page “Tax The Church,” and 29,000 have so far signed an online petition urging the state to harness “the huge fortune of churches” to reduce Greece’s crushing budget deficit.
“The Church must pay its share of the tax burden,” said former finance minister Yannos Papantoniou. “It is totally unreasonable in this situation that they contribute so little…”
Church finances, lands and other concerns are so labyrinthine they are hard to penetrate, analysts said. The Church’s total tax payment is not made public, and Father Timotheos said churches are responsible for their own taxes…
The state at the moment pays the salaries of about 9,000 black-robed priests, including about 100 metropolitans who run the Church, as well as the pensions of retired clergy…
“It’s the third rail of Greek politics. If you touch it, you die,” the adviser to Papandreou said, comparing the issue to the high voltage electrified rail on some train tracks.
RTFA. Detailed in what history it presents. The Orthodox Church executives have always been smart enough to behave like a modern-day mafia. Keep up sufficient charitable works to maintain public political indebtedness.
Given the corruption of Greece’s political institutions, nepotism, cronyism – which is more public than identical DNA in the Orthodox Church – it hasn’t been especially difficult to appear as a force at least as capable as the government at providing assistance. Although the sum of taxes which never makes it to good works is certainly greater than a single delivery system would ever require.