Starting in 2013, the Catholic Church will have to start paying property taxes in Italy. This will put Italy into compliance with EU regulations that ban certain kinds of state aid to churches. Some in the Italian government oppose the change, but the change is welcomed by many Italians.
Until now, every piece of property owned by the Catholic Church has been exempt from all property taxes so long as even a little bit of it is used for non-commercial religious purposes. Thus the presence of a small chapel will make a hotel exempt from property taxes.
Last December, after new austerity measures were adopted in the country, 130,000 Italians signed an online petition urging the government to strip the Church of its tax exemption.
"It was time that they paid, too, with all the exemptions they've had throughout the years," Marco Catalano, a 35-year-old shopkeeper in Rome, told the New York Times in February, adding that he goes to church twice a month.
"They own the most beautiful buildings in downtown Rome, on Italian soil, and rent them out at market prices. They don't give them for free or at low prices for charity."
It's understandable how the current economic problems have caused Italians to turn against this sort of tax exemption. It's way too easy to abuse, even if the Catholic Church were otherwise above reproach. It also makes it harder for everyone else to compete in any business that the Catholic Church decides to get involved with.