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Pope Francis to Italy’s tax agency: Public money should serve the common good

Pope Francis to Italy’s tax agency: Public money should serve the common good

Pope Francis met a delegation from the Italian Revenue Agency on Jan. 31, 2022. / Vatican Media

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

In an audience with employees of the Italian Revenue Agency on Monday, Pope Francis recalled the Catholic Church’s teaching on the universal destination of goods, while urging the agency to conduct its work with honesty, transparency, and impartiality.

“Taxation, when it is just, is in service of the common good,” the pope said in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall Jan. 31.

“Let us work so that the culture of the common good may grow — this is important — so that we may take seriously the universal destination of goods, which is the first purpose of goods,” he continued, “the universal destination, which the Church’s social doctrine continues to teach even today, inheriting it from Scripture and the Fathers of the Church.”

According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a book compiling the Catholic Church’s teachings on social issues, “each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for his full development. The right to the common use of goods is the ‘first principle of the whole ethical and social order’ and ‘the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine.’”

“The principle of the universal destination of goods is an invitation to develop an economic vision inspired by moral values that permit people not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity, in which the creation of wealth can take on a positive function,” the compendium says.

In his speech to a delegation from the Italian Revenue Agency, Pope Francis said it is important to work with honesty, impartiality, and transparency.

According to the pope, if taxation is carried out this way, it will encourage more people to pay their taxes honestly and will help serve the common good.

“The tax agency is often perceived negatively if you do not understand where and how public money is spent. This risks fostering suspicion and discontent. Those who manage everyone’s wealth have a serious responsibility not to enrich themselves,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that it will not be possible for each of us to solve all of society’s economic ills, but no one should profit from another’s poverty or misfortune.

On this point, he quoted Father Primo Mazzolari, who wrote to the Catholic politicians elected to Parliament in 1948: “Much will be forgiven to those who, not having been able to provide for all the inconveniences of others, will have taken care not to provide for their own. Reducing the sickness of one’s neighbor is not always possible: not collecting on their misery is always possible. This is the first duty, the first Christian witness. Faced with common suffering, clean hands seem a meager presentation: but the poor do not think so. The poor measure by it, not our honesty, but our solidarity, which is then the measure of our love.”

The pope added: “Transparency in the management of money, which comes from the sacrifices of many working men and women, reveals freedom of spirit and forms people to be more motivated to pay taxes, especially if tax collection helps to overcome inequalities, to make investments so that there will be more work, to ensure good health care and education for all, to create infrastructure that facilitates social life and the economy.”

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