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One of the most influential officials of the Russian Orthodox Church this week suggested a radical reform to his country's tax system whereby the Russian government would donate to the church and other religious organizations part of the money it collects as income tax.

During interviews last week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ministry as a bishop, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate's department of external relations, suggested that Russia adopt what is known here as the "German model" of church-state relations, under which the churches receive a proportion of taxes collected from Christian taxpayers by the German federal government.

The church leader made the suggestions as the church tries to cope with major difficulties in its funding.

In interviews on March 21 and 22, Metropolitan Kirill said that the government should either return to the church some of the property confiscated after the Bolshevik revolution or pay part of the national income tax to the church, to finance the social service work it provides to Russian citizens.

Several observers have pointed out that the proposal is a timely reminder that the Orthodox Church has no strong financial base in Russian society. It also raises, for some, the need for clearer regulations on the relationship between church and state.

"In no way are we talking about raising taxes," Metropolitan Kirill said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio. "We are talking about a situation in which part of [the present level of] income tax would be channeled to those social programs that the taxpayer wants to support. If someone wants to support other religious organizations—Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish or others recognized as such by the ...

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Church Leader Says Russia Needs To Adopt German-Style Church Tax
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