ROME (CNS) — The Italian bishops’ conference has distributed another 10 million euros ($11.2 million) to the dioceses in northern Italy hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money will be used for emergency aid to individuals and families struggling financially, to support organizations and institutions that are working to combat the pandemic and its effects and to help parishes and other church entities in difficulty, said a statement from the bishops’ conference.
The funds were distributed in early June and must be used by the end of the year, the statement said. A detailed report on how the funds were spent must be submitted to the bishops’ conference by Feb. 28, 2021.
The additional distribution of funds to dioceses in what the Italian government had defined as “red or orange zones” for their high levels of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths brought the total emergency aid provided by the bishops’ conference to almost $267 million.
The money comes from an emergency fund established using part of the proceeds the bishops’ conference collects each year from citizens’ tax designations. When paying their income tax to the government, citizens can designate that 0.8% — or 8 cents for every 10 euros — go to a government social-assistance program, to the Catholic Church or to one of 10 other religious organizations.
While more than half of Italian taxpayers make no choice, of those who do, close to 80% choose the Catholic Church. For 2019, the bishops’ conference received more than 1.13 billion euros ($1.27 billion) from the tax scheme. The money is used to pay the salaries of priests and other pastoral workers, support charity projects in Italy and around the world, to run seminaries and schools and to build new churches.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the bishops’ conference distributed 200 million euro (about $225 million) in emergency aid with most going to the country’s 226 dioceses. The conference also gave more than $562,000 to the national foodbank foundation, more than $10 million to Catholic hospitals and schools in the world’s poorest countries and more than $9.4 million to 12 Italian hospitals that were handling the most COVID patients.