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A devastated people
The Church invites gestures of charity towards the poor
“The population don’t understand what’s happening. It’s hard to have a clear picture of the situation on the basis of the press, Internet, TV, and radio reports. But one thing is certain: our people have had enough and poverty is increasing day after day”. The news of the adoption of the second EU aid package, announced the night of February 20-21, after the first of €110 billion, is not enough to bring a smile on the face of the president of the Greek Bishops Msgr. Francesco Papamanolis, who told Sir Europe about the developments of the Greek crisis. “Every day – he said – people come up to me: fathers of families and youth needing help to find a job; it’s a great distress not to be able to fulfil their requests. This is the reality. Also as a Catholic Church we are in a difficult situation. The Archbishop of Corfu was unable to pay all the taxes and will be inflicted a heavy fine for this. In my diocese we managed to pay last year’s taxes and perhaps we will manage this year too, but starting next year we know we will have nothing to pay with. Taxation (there are three property taxes) has reached 48,2% of our incomes, which only comes from diocese property rents. Things are better for parishes that can count on the offerings of the faithful. Approximately half of our rents goes in government taxes, with the remaining money we are unable to sustain the much needed reparations and maintenance work”.
Lost independence. “People are suffering - the bishop added –, as acknowledged by many MPs that voted against the austerity plan and that for this reason were expelled from their respective political groups. According to pre-electoral surveys, in preparation for April elections, those parties that voted in favour of the EU agreement are rapidly loosing support, up to ten percent of their constituents. The Parliament is lacking a true majority. Its operativeness is limited to the approval of the rescue package that brought us to lose our independence. In fact, now we are called to accept a “reinforced” surveillance, the provides for the permanent presence of the so-called Troika, along with the introduction of a regulation on payments priorities and debt deadlines in the country’s Constitution”. The new plan approved by the Eurogroup – according to reports by various European institutional sources – provides for 130 billion financial aid, along with cuts to private credit, lowering the public-debt-GDP ratio from 160% to 120.5% in 2020. According to EU experts, after the loss of 17 GDP points in four years, Greece will resume the growth levels of 2014. The agreement was made possible after private bondholders decided to renounce 54% in the face value of their value of their holdings (over 70% of current ratings), causing a reduction of approximately 100 billion of the overall public debt.
Bad politics. But if credit banks and European investors will have to renounce a part of the sums invested in Greek bonds, in turn Greek citizens will be exposed to heavy social costs. The population find it hard to accept these decisions, also because, underlined Msgr. Papamanolis “the political world doesn’t set the good example”. “When enormous sacrifices are asked of the people the politicians should be the first to set an example. We learn from the media that the President of the Republic gave up his salary, amounting to 284 thousand euro, higher than that of US President Barack Obama! The media have given no news of the cuts to ministers’ salaries. Premier Lucas Papademos has as many as 108 advisors and each minister has an average of 50 consultants. Public debates address the need to cut political expenditure while the government still has 49 ministers. There have never been as many! MPs keep all their privileges and salaries, nobody renounces”.
Faith is non-taxable. “How can the Greeks be asked to make further sacrifices?”, asked the President of the Greek Bishops. Pensions have been cut and bills are growing higher. Elections won’t change the future of politics”. For Msgr. Papamanolis, “the real winner of the April elections will be the party of absentionists. Many people have lost faith in politics and in its representatives and on the horizon there is no one capable of assuming the lead of the country. Difficult years lie ahead and I don’t know how we will exit this situation. Poverty reached dramatic levels, and today, February 22, new austerity measures have been announced. What will we tell the children? Which future can we assure them? There is no light to be seen at the end of the tunnel. The only thing that hasn’t been taxed yet are our prayers. But faith cannot be taxed. I, in my public speeches, I ask that the lack of finances be at least be met by charity, and mutual understanding. Let us feel close in poverty and may each one of us help the other with what he has”.