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As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
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20180216T1233 14704 CNS JERUSALEM TAX PROTEST 800 A monk walks outside Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 2013. (CNS photo/Baz Ratner, Reuters)JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The heads and patriarchs of Christian churches in Jerusalem strongly denounced the city of Jerusalem's plan to force churches to pay property taxes.

The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries, the leaders said in a Feb. 15 statement.

"The civil authorities have always recognized and respected the great contribution of the Christian churches, which invest billions in building schools, hospitals, and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land," the statement said.

The leaders called on city officials to retract their intention and to "ensure that the status quo, which was sanctioned by the sacred history, is maintained, and the character of the Holy City of Jerusalem is not violated."

"We declare that such a measure both undermines the sacred character of Jerusalem, and jeopardizes the church's ability to conduct its ministry in this land on behalf of its communities and the world-wide church," they said. "We stand firm and united in our position to defend our presence and properties."

In early February, fines totaling nearly $190 million were handed out by the Jerusalem municipality to properties owned by the United Nations and by churches, citing a new legal opinion that determined the properties are not legally defined as places of worship and therefore were not entitled to exemptions from property tax.

The Israel Hayom newspaper reported that the religious institution with the biggest tax bill was the Roman Catholic Church, owing more than $3.3 million.

Among the properties slated to be fined is the Notre Dame of Jerusalem hotel, restaurant and conference center across from the Old City, which is owned by the Vatican. The director of the complex declined to comment on the issue.
The Holy See and Israel have been in negotiations over the status of its Jerusalem holdings since 1993, when diplomatic relations were established.

On Feb. 15, church officials boycotted a New Year reception hosted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Franciscan Father David Grenier, general secretary of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, called the decision "unprecedented."

Some observers said the step appeared to be an escalation in a financial dispute between the municipality and the Israel's Ministry of Finance, with Barkat demanding the ministry provide his city with more funding. The threat to fine the churches seems to be another way the municipality is pressuring the ministry to release more funds to the city, which is one of the poorer larger cities in the country, observers said.

In late January, Barkat threatened to fire more than 2,000 municipal employees because, he said, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is preventing necessary funds from reaching the municipality. The announcement led to a citywide strike of municipal services, including garbage collection, which left trash and debris strewn throughout the city.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.