Government funding for churches in Timor-Leste under review

government funding

In Timor Leste, where the population is 90% Catholic, the government makes a significant financial contribution to the Catholic church.

The way in which the funding is carried out is now under review.

The government will not comment on how the funding is to be allocated this year and it could be facing a fight with the Catholic Church hierarchy on the issue.

For the past decade, government funding of between US$1.5 million and US$2 million each year were disbursed to the nation’s two dioceses, with millions more made available to parishes and religious orders for specific projects.

But now, the Catholic prime minister, Taur Matan Ruak, elected in May, plans to use the concordat signed with the Vatican in 2015 as a basis to change the way government funding is allocated.

“My government will no longer give funding to the parish churches because we have allocated a specific budget for the church,” Taur Matan Ruak told parliament.

“The church should resolve its own problems.”

Up until now US$15 million a year has been guaranteed by the government.

In 2017, US$6 million went directly to the church, with the government retaining US$9 million that was supposed to be for the funding of church building projects.

This year the government has so far committed only US$5 million to be transferred to the bishops’ conference.

This agreement was signed in the dying days of the previous government of Mari Alkatiri, despite a budget for the year not having been passed.

But the money has yet to be transferred because of the change of government.

Joaquin Freitas, head of the  (CSSF) said he had been told the government may transfer only US$3 million.

The CSSF is an office within the prime minister’s department.

There is confusion as to who is responsible for allocating the funds. Up until now, responsibility has been shared by the elected officials, the church and the CSSF.

Father Crispin Julio Belo, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference, said that the 2018 total funding of US$15 million should be transferred directly into the bishops’ conference account.

However, the government would not comment on how it plans to split the money.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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