Argentina’s Catholic church makes austerity push
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The Roman Catholic Church of Argentina announced Friday that it will stop receiving contributions from the government for its evangelizing activities.
The gesture comes as the church aims to show its commitment to austerity amid a currency crisis and double-digit inflation that have severely hit the homeland of Pope Francis.
In a statement, bishops at the Argentine Episcopal Conference expressed their willingness to “accept the gradual replacement of state contributions (allocations to bishops, scholarships for seminarians and border parishes),” saying they would rely on the faithful.
The move also seeks to relax the church’s tense relationship with President Mauricio Macri, who promoted a debate over the decriminalization of abortion earlier this year. Senators later voted against the bill, which would have allowed abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Although Argentina is a secular state, the church received an annual contribution set at 130 million pesos ($3.5 million) in 2018. It also receives subsidies and tax exemptions.
The measure by the Argentine church aligns with austerity measures ordered by Macri’s government as part of a financing deal with the International Monetary Fund to stem the economic crisis. The Argentine peso has depreciated more than 50 percent so far this year and Argentines continue to lose purchasing power to one of the highest inflation rates in the world.
Macri has announced that he will hike taxes and slash several ministries, but he has also strengthened food plans for Argentines who suffer from poverty.
The move by the bishops’ conference also comes after a campaign was launched earlier this year opposing the influence of religion on Argentine politics. The “Collective Apostasy” campaign encouraged people to quit the Roman Catholic Church after lawmakers voted against legalizing some abortions.