On the coronavirus front in Spain – where just over 33,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 and over 2,000 have died – a mayor has told the Church to pay tax to help solve the health, social and economic crisis as two bishops have taken ill from the disease.

– “If we’re asking citizens to make an effort, the Church must also do its part”

José María González, the mayor of Cádiz, in the region of Andalucía, sent out a warning to bishops March 22 that the city in Spain’s south would begin to charge the property tax that the Church has traditionally been exempt from paying, as a way to soften the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the healthcare system and the economy.

“We can only get out of a situation like this as a community. With everyone making an effort”, González advised the Church, flagging that Cádiz would be expecting to receive taxes on Church properties with non-worship or teaching related ends, such as Church-owned houses, garages, shops and other buildings.

“That’s why we in the Cádiz City Council think that each estate must roll up its sleeves and do everything in its power to move forward without anyone, absolutely nobody, being left behind after this crisis”, the mayor cautioned.

Highlighting as “necessary and essential” his decision to make the Church pay property tax, González said that “all of society must row in the same direction and efforts… must come from all social sectors”.

“The priority at the moment is to ease the health crisis, but also to minimise the present and future economic consequences, especially in so many families that have not yet recovered from the previous economic crisis”, the mayor continued, referring to the 2008 global financial crisis that hit Spain particularly hard.

Mayor González’s proposal immediately found acceptance in his political party Adelante Andalucía (“Onward Andalucía”), with senator Pilar González calling on other councils to follow Cádiz’s move.

“If we’re asking citizens to make an effort, the Church must also do its part”, Senator González said, stressing that the Catholic authorities paying income tax is about generating “better financing” and “greater income capacity to guarantee the rights of all”.

– Bishops of Ávila, Palencia test positive

Although legitimate from an historical and political point of view, Mayor González’s proposal that the Church pay property tax was rather unfortunately timed.

That was because bishops and other Catholic leaders around Spain haven’t let up this past week in offering Church recourses like seminaries or counselling professionals to help alleviate the country’s collapsing health system and morale, and in extending words of hope to citizens who have now been under lockdown for the past nine days.

The Church has hardly been spared, too, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with two bishops – José María Gil Tamayo, of the diocese of Ávila, and Manuel Herrero Fernández, of that of Palencia – now having both tested positive for the disease.

– Bishop of Terrassa: “Hopefully we’ll come out of this crisis more solidary”

That at least a part of the Spanish Church is aware of what’s at stake in the coronavirus crisis was demonstrated yesterday by Bishop of Terrassa José Ángel Saiz Meneses, who in a Sunday message warned that “this pandemic is causing a major health crisis and will end up causing a huge economic crisis, which will affect especially the poorest and the most vulnerable”.

“This true planetary emergency must serve us to reflect, to reconsider, to rethink the way we live, our supposed needs, our rhythms, our expenses, our urgencies and our priorities”, Saiz wrote.

“As a human family, we must learn the lesson”, the bishop continued.

“Hopefully we’ll come out of this crisis more mature, more responsible, more sensible and more solidary”.

More from Spain on the coronavirus crisis:

Francis warns businesses over coronavirus: “It’s not the time to fire people, it’s the time to welcome them”

Coronavirus shuts down Catholic shrines across Europe

‘Good news’ on the coronavirus front: meet the hero priests going beyond the call of duty

Spanish government declares “state of alarm” over COVID-19: Holy Week stop to cause 500 million euro hole in Seville economy alone


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.