Almost half of the Spanish dioceses (34 of 69) declared a deficit throughout 2020, the year of the pandemic in which there was a drastic reduction in religious practice and a resounding reduction of up to 7% in income, according to the data presented this afternoon at the headquarters of the CEE and which is part of the Report of Activities that each year the bishops present to the Ministry of the Presidency to justify the expenses derived from the 0.7% of the controversial 'X' of the Income, which in that exercise had a historical result, with 297 million euros, the second most relevant in democracy.
“We were closed for several months, and when it was later opened, it was with significant capacity restrictions, and with the legitimate fear of contagion,” explained the CEE spokesman, Luis Argüello. Despite everything, he admitted, the decline in religious practice is structural: “We had not come out of the pandemic crisis and we are in a new economic crisis, from which we still do not know how we will get out,” added Argüello, who pointed out that the Church "lives its own economic fragility".
“Surely we will value a year 2021 in which the data may be better, and we will see a 2022 in which we are already seeing new economic difficulties,” added the still auxiliary bishop of Valladolid, who claimed the Church as a place “to find reasons to hope and the reasons to live” in a sad and apathetic society, “where mental illnesses and suicide attempts are increasingly seen”.
The bishops puff out their chests
“The Church gives back to society twice what it receives, only in assistance activity,” declared the director of the CEE Transparency Office, Ester Martín, who pointed out that “the Church generates an economic value for society of 589 .6 million euros, a budget greater than the third autonomous community in the ranking of expenses for welfare activities”. The data presented this Wednesday has been audited by PwC.
The Spanish Church has given an account of the work it carried out during 2020, the year in which we lived for several months confined, alone and in crisis, health, economic and personal. A year in which the Spanish Church attended, according to its report, to more than four million people through its assistance and health centers: 671 assistance, health and social activities in times of urgency and pain.
The bishops have insisted, as on other occasions, that the Church saves the State money. Only in Education, they maintain, almost 4,000 million euros (3,895). They also highlighted that priests, religious and lay people dedicated more than 41 million hours to the pastoral activity of the Church throughout the year.
Among other data, the Report points out that the Spanish Church dedicated more than 52 million euros to 471 projects for the construction, conservation and rehabilitation of heritage throughout that year. In the last eight years, they explain, it has used 511 million euros in the care and conservation of heritage. Regarding the cultural and tourist activity of the Church, the bishops calculated an economic impact of 22,600 million euros.
And what is the rent money used for? The 297.6 million went mainly to the dioceses (210.9 million). The 'Social Security of the Clergy' took the other big game, 23.8 million, in addition to aid to Caritas (the bishops gave the NGO of the Church 6.4 million), and different ecclesiastical faculties or schools. Some 5 million euros went to communication campaigns.
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