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Pope Blesses Oft-Maligned Italian Tax Collectors

Posted on Feb. 1, 2022

True to the papal tradition of comforting the outcast, Pope Francis told a group of Italian tax collectors that their calling is righteous and that they must favor the redistribution of wealth.

“Today, as in biblical times, tax collectors risk being perceived by society as an enemy to be wary of,” Pope Francis told a delegation from the Italian Revenue Agency January 31. “The taxman is [often] seen as 'putting his hands in your pockets.’ Your work appears thankless in the eyes of a society that focuses on private property as an absolute and fails to subordinate it to . . . sharing for the good of all.”

The pope said taxation is a sign of legality and justice. “It must favor the redistribution of wealth, protecting the dignity of the poor and the least, who always risk being crushed by the powerful,” he said.

The subject of taxes appears frequently in the Bible. “It has been part of daily life since ancient times,” the pope said. “The Bible does not demonize money, but invites us to make the right use of it: not to be enslaved by it, not to idolize it.”

The pope’s words of support appear consistent with the eighth beatitude from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, in which he said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).

The Apostle Matthew was a tax collector when he first met Jesus and decided to follow his path, Pope Francis noted. “Matthew may have even continued to manage his own wealth — even [that] of others — but he certainly did so with a different logic: that of service to the needy and sharing with the brothers and sisters, just as the Teacher taught him,” he said. 

While Pope Francis extolled tax collectors’ role in combating tax evasion, the Vatican has not always played a positive role in that regard. In the decades following the founding of the Vatican Bank in 1942, wealthy Italians often used it to avoid taxes and bypass currency regulations. The Vatican was not added to the Italian government’s list of cooperative financial institutions until 2017, after the government reached an agreement with the Holy See on the exchange of financial and tax information.

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