Pope Francis has a message for Europe's religious orders: Take in refugees, or start paying taxes.
Crux reports that the pope, speaking on Portugal's Radio Renascença, pointed out that orders who choose to rent out space that could be used to house refugees should behave the way a for-profit operation does. Pontifex said, “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 continued, “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.”
Crux explains that it's not unusual for orders to rent out rooms when they can, and use the money toward operating expenses.
This is not the first time that the pope has called upon Europe's Catholics to show compassion toward incoming refugees, millions more of whom could be headed toward the continent. In a speech given earlier this month, the pope announced that the Vatican will take in two refugee families, and encouraged other Catholic groups to do the same. "May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family." He added that Bishops should "express the Gospel in concrete terms," by taking in refugees, according to the Associated Press.
The Washington Post reported that when Pope Francis made the call earlier this week, people listened:
With Europe failing to come up with a single political plan to handle the influx, a growing number of individuals have been trying to fill the gap, an effort that is likely to be spurred by the pope’s appeal. On Sunday morning, a caravan of 150 Austrian drivers set off for the border with Hungary to ferry arriving asylum-seekers to Vienna. The head of the Scottish government said she would take a refugee into her home.
The International Business Times also reported movement in the Catholic community following the pope's call to action:
Church leaders across Europe were scrambling Tuesday to find housing, food and other basic necessities to accommodate a growing influx of refugees escaping conflict and repression. The flurry of charity came after Pope Francis urged Roman Catholic communities Sunday to follow the Vatican's lead and take in refugee families.
Nothing like the added pressure of taxation to really spur a movement.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.