The pope warns churches to take in refugees—or else

Parishes, do something!
Parishes, do something!
Image: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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Pope Francis has issued a stark warning to Roman Catholic religious orders: help alleviate the escalating refugee crisis in Europe by hosting asylum seekers, or pay taxes, like everyone else.

In an interview with the Portuguese Radio Renascença, Francis repeated his call from early September to church parishes and other religious institutions to each take in a family of refugees:

When I say that a parish should welcome a family, I don’t mean that they should go and live in the priest’s house, in the rectory, but 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…There are convents which are almost empty…

The pope made a similar call two years ago. He spoke of the lackluster response to his plea by parishes that prefer to use their spare space for profit-generating businesses, referring to “the temptation of the god money.”

“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,’” he said.

There are 12,000 parishes in Europe, and Francis said if they want to rake in profits, they should be treated like any other business: “Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! 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.”

The Vatican will be taking in two refugee families, Francis said. Asked by Radio Renascenca how long they would stay, he replied: “As long as the Lord wants. We don’t know how this will end, do we?”