Many years ago, when I used to share more than a slight resemblance to Ambra Angolini, and when Non e' La Rai was still being aired on Italia Uno, I visited Rome with a friend. We were both young(er) and energetic, and the Angolini look could get us into any club without paying a cent. But despite the temptation of debauchery, the possibility of getting drunk on the house, and the generous amounts of male attention, I somehow convinced my crazier friend to stick to the cultural side of Rome.

I am still amazed with how I managed to keep her on the straight and narrow but somehow I did, and instead of partying till the wee hours of the morning we visited The Colosseum, Piazza Di Spagna, The Foro Romano, The Pantheon, La Fontana di Trevi, and of course Vatican City.

We left our visit to The Vatican City for last on purpose, not because we didn't look forward to seeing its beauty, and the works of art within it, but we knew that we would never find a way to blend all that luxury and wealth with anything that our religion really stands for.

In fact, by not being the type of people to accept things at face value, we almost spoilt our visit to The Vatican with silly questions like, 'how is all this luxury representative of anything that Jesus ever said or taught?' 'Wouldn't the sale of the candles alone feed a little village in Africa?' 'Where does it say that Jesus had to have such a luxurious house adorned in gold?' And, 'how come the Foro Romano , the nucleus of Roman Civilization is in such a state, whilst the Vatican, which is supposed to represent, humility, love and simplicity, is covered in riches?' These 'ridiculous' questions kept nagging at us until we gave up on Rome and hitched a ride to Florence.

It's been years since my visit to Rome, but to this day, every time I try to merge Jesus' teachings with the riches and treasures that I saw inside The Vatican City, I hear the painful sound of the needle scraping off the record playing in my head. To me, The Vatican and all the lavish Church properties around the world, look like pure Paganism with Jesus' name engraved all over them just for brand affect. Now, with Italy having to face drastic austerity measures, a good number of Italians have, like me, started to point fingers at the Roman Catholic Church.

An AFP report claimed that although Italy's traditional ruling class usually steer away from openly criticizing The Vatican, a Facebook page calling upon the Church to help ease the financial burdens has already collected over 130, 000 supporters.

As is the case in Malta and other parts of the world, The Church in Italy owns lots of land and prime real estate, and in Italy, even though some of these properties have been developed into profitable businesses, they are still exempt from local housing tax.

According to the same AFP report, thanks to an agreement between former PM Bettino Craxi and The Vatican, which was signed back in the 80s, The Church in Italy also benefits from a yearly share of income tax that the Italians can pay to it instead of to the state.

With such blatant injustice, and the incongruity that the luxurious shiny Vatican emits, politicians like Angelino Alfano, the head of Berlusconi's ruling centre-right People of Freedom party, still has the gall to defend the Church by saying that "trying to penalize the Church is like harming the people who have the least defence."

Oh! Puhlease!

This is 'almost' as sad as the story of professional Italian football players being up in arms against a new "solidarity tax" which proposes to charge those who earn more than 100,000Eur per year, (as is the case with most of Italy's professional footballers), an additional 5 to 10%.

But no, I take it back, the Vatican's holy tax evasion, as it was dubbed by L'Espresso, is definitely sadder, because I don't see any Italian politician standing up to The Church in the way that Italian Minister Roberto Calderoli stood up to the spoilt footballers. According to La Stampa, Calderoli said that if the footballers continue to threaten strikes or retaliation, he'll propose that they pay a double extra tax. "No more 5 and 10%," he said "but 10 and 20%. Then they'll have a real reason to complain."

According to Time Magazine, "bankers best guesses about the Vatican's wealth put it at $10 billion to $15 billion." Out of this, Italian stockholdings alone are around $1.6 billion, with The Vatican having huge investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, and real estate. "But unlike ordinary stockholders," explains Time Magazine, "the Vatican pays no taxes on this income."

Of course many Catholic zealots will argue that The Church is one of the biggest charitable contributors around the world, and should therefore be left alone. But aren't charitable donations all relative? Isn't a donation of a million Euro from a multi billionaire the equivalent of a 1Euro donation from us common mortals?

I don't even consider myself religious in anyway but even I know that Jesus' story about the Good Samaritan was more about breaking taboos rather than helping the needy. At the time not only did Samaritans and Jews hate each other but it was also considered unclean to touch a dead body. So clearly, the message that he was trying to send out was that if there's some law or rule that hurts people, then you should break that rule or remove all together. Jesus was all about breaking rules and taboos, going against the grain, healing sinners, touching women deemed unclean because of their menstruation, and, shock horror, he even worked on the Sabbath by healing the sick.

And yet, here we are, supposedly worshiping him, abiding by his teachings and living by his lessons, by investing in real estate, banks, and other businesses. The worse thing about this whole charade is that we go around trying to convince people that it's what Jesus would have wanted.


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