Oct 17, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

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Is the Pope evading taxes on Vatican property in Israel?

Refusal to pay

In a recent submission in the JPost,  former NYC advertising agency, and marketing executive David Levine blasted the Vatican for its refusal to pay taxes due to Israel and its municipalities on church-owned properties and income.

That’s because the Vatican’s churches claim to be houses of worship exclusively even though it is well documented that many of them double as hotels, restaurants, stores, and schools.

An unfair phenomenon

Levine notes In CUFI article from 2018, in which then Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat said, “Does it make sense to anyone that commercial areas like hotels, wedding halls and businesses should share this exemption, just because they are owned by the churches? Why should the Mamilla Hotel pay municipal tax while the Notre Dame Hotel across the street is exempt?”

Demonizing Israel as a response

In the op-ed, Levine notes that the Jerusalem Municipality requested payment of unpaid commercial taxes equalling NIS 650 million (roughly $186 million) and subsequently froze church bank accounts. But instead of doing the right thing and paying the taxes they owed, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and other churches affiliated with the Vatican “demonized Israel, going so far as to imply that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish state.”

This type of sentiment flies in the face of the most basic teachings of the Bible:

Every spot on which your foot treads I give to you, as I promised Moshe. (Joshua 1:3)

A corpus separatum

The Vatican’s excuse for their tax evasion is that according to the Holy See, “Jerusalem must be internationalized and become a corpus separatum (Latin for “separate body”).”

Levine also notes how the Israeli taxpayer needs to foot the bill for the public services that the Catholic churches enjoy unethically. The author cites the New Testament exposing the Vatican’s hypocrisy regarding theft. Noting that the Vatican harbors vessels looted during the Second Temple’s destruction, Levine concludes with an out-of-the-box proposal: “a credit against the tax bill for the return of the Jewish treasures to the State of Israel.”