Pope intervenes as Istanbul church gets million liras tax fine
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet
REUTERS PhotoPope Benedict XVI has intervened via the Italian Consulate in Istanbul following news that Taksim’s St. Antoine’s Church was fined 1 million Turkish liras due to tax violations.
Pope Benedict immediately contacted the Italian consulate right after the crisis erupted, encouraging the consulate to follow up, and if necessary, file a lawsuit. The priest of the church, Lulian Pishta, then joined the Italian consulate in alerting EU countries on the matter and requesting support.
The courtyard in front of the church was registered as a land lot on the property title documents and was not included in the tax exemption laws for places of worship, according to reports.
Beyoğlu’s mayor, however, assured the church that no tax payment would be required.
"This fine will not be paid. The community can stop worrying," Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan said “The church and the courtyard are registered as a land lot in the title. The church failed to do anything about that for years. We will solve this issue shortly.”
Pishta, however, disagreed.
"If the Sultanahmet Mosque doesn't need a holy place registration, then neither should we," Pishta told the press. "Saint Antoine’s goes back to 1230."
Pishta said it was their "natural right" to inform the community of the situation.
"Our talks with the municipality continue," Pishta said. "We had a month to object to the fine, and that time is running out. If we fail to reach any solutions by then, we will apply to the courts because if we do not do so, we will be accepting this fine and this tax."