The Argentine Catholic Church confirmed, on Friday, that it accepted a gradual withdrawal of the state's financial contributions and that an episcopal commission will be in charge of sustaining the church's evangelizing mission, the Argentine Catholic Information Agency (AICA) reported.
So far, the Argentine Government has been allocating some US$3.7 million to the Catholic church. This amount, which represents seven percent of the church's budget, is used for the expenses of bishops and border parishes.
The announcement was made at the end of the Argentine Episcopal Conference's Plenary Assembly, a meeting that brought together bishops from all over the country and took place in Pinar, Argentina, from Nov. 4 to 9. The meeting was attended by the Bishop of Mercedes-Lujan, Agustin Radrizzani, who officiated a mass in front of the local basilica two weeks ago, with the participation of several workers unions that have been critical of the Mauricio Macri Administration.
After the Plenary Assembly, which took place in the framework of a tense dialogue between the church and the state, the bishops indicated that their activities will be financed with "the solidarity of the communities and the faithful, assuming the spirit of the first Christian communities who put their own in common," the AICA press release explained.
The Episcopal Commission will work on both the creation of a solidarity fund and the "continuity of the dialogue with the national government, agreeing on various alternatives that will facilitate this replacement."
In the last year, the relationship between the Macri Administration and the Catholic church have resulted in intense episodes, which escalated when Marcos Peña, current chief of Cabinet of ministers of the Argentine Government, referred to the financial public burden associated with the bishops' maintenance.
In such a context, the Archbishop of La Plata Victor Fernandez stated that "neoliberalism prefers a closed church."
"Political and media powers have a strong predominance of neoliberal thought, which certainly rejects the church's talk of social issues and prefers it locked in the sacristy," said the Archbishop, according to Perfil Newspaper. archbishop Fernandez added that "contemporary bishops talk very little about social problems, and when they do, it is with timidity or fear. I doubt that anyone becomes a priest to defend liberal macroeconomics... to do so, somebody becomes an economist or a politician."
The Argentine Episcopal Conference's Executive Commission urged to "take care" of democracy and asked those who govern to be more sensitive to the country's social reality, a report from AICA said.