Cologne Cathedral

Journalists take fight to Cologne Church over secret billions

Journalists in Germany are continuing their fight to force the country’s richest archdiocese to reveal what it does with the almost three billion euros it holds in assets thanks to the German “church tax”.

Driving the news

On June 13 the Cologne Administrative Court rejected the claim filed by Correctiv, an investigative journalism non-profit, that sought information on the accounts of the Church in Cologne.

The Court ruled that, although the Archdiocese receives much of its funds from an income tax paid by Catholics in the area, the way it spends that money is protected by a constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy.

Where it stands

“We have appealed”, confirmed Annika Joeres, a journalist with Correctiv, to the KNA news agency. The appeal against the Administrative Court ruling will be heard by a higher tribunal in Münster.

“We will continue to fight for more transparency for all Christians,” said Joeres. “The way the Catholic Church spends its money is critical to the future of creation, such as our climate, and we can not understand why the Church refuses to disclose its investments”.

For the record

“Without exception, funds that serve to meet long-term obligations are based on ethically-sustainable principles”, Vicar General of the Cologne Archdiocese Markus Hofmann declared, fending off criticism of the Church’s lack of transparency.

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Go deeper

The wealth of the German Church – which, in the eyes of its critics, affords it undue influence both in German society and the wider, global Church, again came under scrutiny this week with the news that the Diocese of Augsburg holds more than 745 million euros in assets.

The increase of 14 million euros on the figures from 2017 are thanks to a “pleasing economic development in the past year”, according to a report released by the diocese.

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