FaithWorld

Capital gains mean church losses in new German tax twist

(The Cologne cathedral is pictured October 16, 2005. WORLD CUP 2006 PREVIEW CITYSCAPE REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/)

(The Cologne cathedral,  October 16, 2005. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/)

A change in Germany’s capital gains tax has prompted an exodus from its Catholic and Protestant churches this year as thousands of registered members quit their parishes rather than pay the money.

Dioceses in both churches have reported in recent weeks that the number of members deserting them has jumped compared to last year, often by 50 percent or more, as banks prepare to withdraw church tax at source for capital gains from January 1.

German tax authorities collect an 8 or 9 percent premium on churchgoers’ annual tax bills and channel it to the faiths to pay clergy salaries, charity services and other expenses. Members must officially leave the church to avoid paying this.

Under a simplified procedure starting next year, banks will withhold that premium from church members earning more than 801 euros ($1,055) in capital gains annually and pass it on to tax authorities for distribution to the churches.

Letters from banks announcing the new procedure this summer and asking clients for their religious affiliation — so they can earmark funds to the right churches — have worried many members. Churches have scrambled to explain the changes.

Vatican makes “new generation” cardinal head of key German archdiocese

(German Cardinal Rainer Woelki waves as he arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 5, 2013. Catholic cardinals in a closed-door meeting ahead of the election of a new pontiff want to be briefed on a secret report into leaks about alleged corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican, a senior source said on Monday. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

(German Cardinal Rainer Woelki waves as he arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

The Vatican has appointed the archbishop of Berlin, seen by German media as part of a “new generation” of less dogmatic clergy, to take over the Cologne archdiocese, the largest and richest in Germany, it said on Friday.

The move makes Rainer Maria Woelki, who turns 58 next month, one of the most influential Roman Catholic cardinals and is an indication of the type of person Pope Francis wants to see in prominent Church roles.

Growing concern in Muslim world about Islamist militancy: Pew survey

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. The meeting was moved to Maitama park on Friday after unidentified assailants attacked members of the group with bottles and chairs at Unity fountain on Wednesday. Nigeria's president said on Thursday he had ordered "a full-scale operation" against Boko Haram Islamist militants and sought to reassure parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would be freed. Picture taken May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

(Members of the Abuja #BringBackOurGirls group attend a meeting at Maitama park in Abuja May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Large majorities in Muslim countries are increasingly worried about Islamist militancy and oppose its best-known groups, such as the global al Qaeda movement, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Hamas, according to a new survey.

Support for violent tactics such as suicide bombing has fallen in many countries over the past decade, although some states still have significant minorities approving it, the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said.

Record turnout for Singapore gay rally amid religious protests

(Participants form a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. The annual Pink Dot Sg event promotes an acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore, according to organizers. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

(Participants form a giant pink dot at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

One of the largest crowds ever recorded in Singapore for a civil society gathering turned out on Saturday at a gay rights rally, against a backdrop of noisy opposition from religious groups in the run-up to the event.

An estimated 26,000 people descended on Hong Lim Park for the “Pink Dot”, an annual event since 2009 that aims to discourage discrimination against same-sex couples.

Three European courts grapple with end-of-life dilemmas

(Marie-Genevieve Lambert (L), the half sister, and Francois Lambert (R), the nephew of Vincent Lambert, who is tetraplegic and currently on artificial life support, leaves the court after the verdict in a judicial case at the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) in Paris, June 24, 2014. France's top administrative court ruled on Tuesday that doctors should be allowed to take a tetraplegic man off life support after nearly six years in a coma, siding with his wife in a case that has revived a debate about euthanasia. The Council of State ruled that doctors had the right to end the medical support that has kept Vincent Lambert, brain-damaged and in vegetative state, artificially alive since a motorbike accident on the way to work plunged him into a coma in September 2008. The verdict follows a heart-rending battle between Lambert's wife Rachel, seeking to let the former psychiatric nurse die, and his parents, who took legal action last year to halt plans by his doctors to do that. REUTERS/John Schults)

(Marie-Genevieve Lambert (L), the half sister, and Francois Lambert (R), the nephew of Vincent Lambert, who is tetraplegic and currently on artificial life support, leaves the court after the verdict in a judicial case at the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) in Paris, June 24, 2014. REUTERS/John Schults)

Three European courts stepped carefully around delicate end-of-life issues on Wednesday, with one rejecting assisted suicide, another delaying it and a third acquitting a doctor from charges he murdered dying patients.

The varied rulings by Britain’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights and a regional French court reflected the difficulty of drawing a clear legal line between aiding terminal patients to die in peace and committing murder.

French imams, prison chaplains seek ways to combat Islamist radicalisation

(A family lights candles at the Jewish Museum, site of a shooting in central Brussels May 25, 2014. Belgian police were hunting on Sunday for an assailant who shot dead three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, and French authorities tightened security at Jewish sites following another attack that prompted fears of a rise in anti-Semitism. REUTERS/Eric Vidal )

(A family lights candles at the Jewish Museum, site of a shooting in central Brussels May 25, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Vidal )

Islamic prayer leaders and prison chaplains in France, jolted by a French Islamist’s killing spree at the Brussels Jewish Museum, have begun discussing ways to better fight the radicalisation of young Muslims here.

About 30 imams from southeastern France, meeting in Avignon on Wednesday, said action was urgently needed because about 300 young French Muslims are reported to have left their region to fight alongside jihadist forces in Syria.

Russian Orthodox Church the absent player at Pope-Patriarch Jerusalem summit

(Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, attends an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine's crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion said on Friday. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

(Metropolitan Hilarion during an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

When Pope Francis meets the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians next week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient western and eastern wings of Christianity want to come closer together.

After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek does not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will embrace on May 25. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow.

Religious tensions deepen Ukraine splits – Russian Orthodox official

(Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, attends an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine's crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion said on Friday. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov )

(Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign relations department, at an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov )

Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine’s crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, a senior official of the Moscow-based church said on Friday.

Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Church’s foreign relations department, said other churches had clearly lined up behind the Kiev government and he cited religious differences for its decision to refuse him entry to Ukraine last week.

Islamic officials condemn kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls

(A woman holds a sign during a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained. Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girl secondary school in Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)

(A woman holds a sign during a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)

Islamic scholars and human rights officials of the world’s largest Muslim organisation on Thursday denounced the mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant group Boko Haram as “a gross misinterpretation of Islam”.

The statements from a research institute and human rights committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) echoed denunciations of the radical Islamist group by religious leaders and officials in Nigeria and several Muslim countries.

Vatican urges sex abuse critics not to stay “fossilized in the past”

(Marie Collins (L), member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

(Marie Collins (L), member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley new at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican told critics of its sexual abuse record on Tuesday that it had developed model child protection policies over the last decade and that its accusers should not stay “fossilized in the past” when attitudes were different.

Addressing the United Nations Committee on Torture, the papal ambassador in Geneva admitted the Roman Catholic Church had in the past protected priests who molested minors but had not done so in years because it understood the issue better.