The Church in Colombia going bankrupt

The Church in Colombia is likely to be bankrupt by August, the Archbishop of Bogota, Luis José Rueda, says.

The financial crisis is a direct result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has caused chaos in Colombia’s healthcare system.

Rueda says “three months of zero income and 100 per cent of expenses” will cause diocesan finances to explode.

Rueda says some bishops are trying to fundraise amongst wealthy parishes to avoid bankruptcy. However, the Church’s problems are compounded by Colombia’s economic crisis.

The International Monetary Fund has lowered Colombia’s economic growth projection for this year to -7.8 per cent from April’s figure of -2.4 per cent. This is the worst crash in the modern history of Colombia.

The local Church’s potential collapse has serious social consequences for poor Colombians. The country’s estimated 5,000 churches lead 50,000 to 80,000 charitable initiatives and social institutions. These include soup kitchens, schools and care homes.

The Church in Colombia doesn’t receive any financial support from the state, leaving it reliant on collections at Mass. Because of the pandemic, however, Mass has been suspended since mid-March.

As a result of having 90 percent of parish income cut off, dioceses have been using savings and liquid assets to pay debts and wages.
Rueda says this money is likely to run out in the near future.

While Rueda does not support the resumption of Mass, he says Church organisations will probably stop paying salaries in August, unless the situation changes. So far, there have been 77,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Colombia and 2,491 deaths. The number of those infected is continuing to grow.

The Colombian Bishop of Quibdó has raised the alarm over the precarious state of the Colombian healthcare system, which he says is “collapsing”. He also blamed those who broke lockdown restrictions for the further spread of the virus in his region, Chocó.

He joins an array of Church figures currently appealing for international support to be sent to Colombia, given the economic disruption and social problems the pandemic has caused there.


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