Page 5, 30th August 2002

30th August 2002
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Page 5, 30th August 2002 — Europe

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Jobless must pay Church tax

A GERMAN court has ruled that the unemployed should not be exempt from paying Church taxes, writes Mike Leidig, Central Europe correspondent.

The court in Dortmund said Ithe Catholic Church had the right to deduct their tithes from a person's unemployment benefit even if the person is not Catholic.

A female engineer who did not have either a job or subscribed to a religion but still has to pay money to the Church initiated the legal proceedings against the Tithe Department of the Labour Office.

The court ruled that if the majority of workers pay Church tax then it must be considered as a "normal fiscal departure" and therefore has to be deducted from the unemployment benefit. In 1999, 57 per cent of the working popu lation paid tithes and although there are no figures yet for 2001 or 2002 the court is assuming there is still a majority of Church taxpayers.

The court estimated an ongoing trend of three per cent annual withdrawal from the Church, which means that at least for this year the unemployed will be giving the money to the Church whether they want to or not.

A spokesman for the court said soon it would really be unclear as to whether tithepaying workers were still in the majority.

Women's first at university

WOMEN students are to be freely admitted to the theological faculty of one of Europe's oldest universities this autumn for the first time, writes Nick Holdsworth in Prague.

The group of 15 women who have been accepted to study on a Masters programme in theology at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University, Prague, reflects the success of a modernisation process forced on the department after a long running dispute over teaching practices. Curriculum changes, currently awaiting Czech education ministry rubberstamping, are focused around four programmes: masters in Catholic theology and Christian art history and bachelors in theological sciences and Christian art.

A masters course designed to prepare theology teachers for secondary schools has been scrapped. PhD studies, suspended during the restructuring, will be re-established within the next two years.

Prof Nicholas Lobkowicz, the Czech-born former vicechancellor of the German Catholic University of Eichstaett, who was drafted in earlier this year to help oversee reform at the faculty, said the key problem had been the low standard of teaching at the faculty and the "reactionary and deeply disobedient" attitude of the staff.

Prof Lobkowicz, who will oversee the faculty until the election of a new dean early next year, sacked several professors and recruited more than a dozer Czech speaking new staff from Rome, German and Czech universities.

Bishop wants Slovenia in EU

SLOVENIAN membership of the EU would be a "welcome return home", the country's most senior Church figure has said, writes Ed Holt in Ljubljana.

Delivering a sermon during celebrations earlier this month marking the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Archbishop of Ljubljana Franc Rode said the country's path to European Union membership was a "return back home".

"Slovenia's integration into the common European home will once again link Slovenes to the nations and cultures with which they were linked to in the past," he told pilgrims who had traveled to the village of Brezje, 50 kilometres North of Ljubljana, for the celebrations.

Slovenia is expected at the end of this year to receive an invitation to join the EU in 2004.

Archbishop Rode called on Slovenes to adhere to what he said were "common European values" on the path to EU membership, such as respect for life, a desire for peace and co-operation as well as human dignity and a love and respect for the family.

But he attacked the Slovene school system. Archbishop Rode, a long-time campaigner for the introduction of religious studies as a subject in public schools, said the current school system was "ideologically afflicted" because it spread atheistic views on the world and life. The country's school system, the media and people's ideas on the family needed to be "overhauled", he added.

Slovakia to get military bishop

THE HOLY SEE and Slovakia have signed an agreement in Bratislava to provide for the establishment of a military bishopric.

The agreement seeks to "guarantee adequate religious assistance to Catholic faithful members of the armed forces and the police", a Vatican press statement explained.

The document was signed on behalf of the Holy See by the apostolic nuncio in Slovakia, Archbishop Henryk Jozef Nowacki, and on behalf of Slovakia by the Minister of Defence, Jozef Stank.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and other government leaders also attended the ceremony. In June, local media reported that Islamic extremists were plotting to attack the basilica, and police subsequently assigned plainclothes officers to guard the church.

The five men, who live in Padua, a city in northeastern Italy, were arrested after they videotaped the fresco and the central altar, and were overheard saying worrisome things, Giovagnoli said.

"They were heard saying phrases hostile to [the Christian] religion, expressing the possibility of destroying" religious symbols, Giovagnoli said.

Among the phrases the men said, according to the prosecutor: "That which [Osama] bin Laden does is just what's needed," and, "if they don't take it [the fresco] away, everything will come tumbling down."

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