Monastery’s Fundraising Efforts Scrutinized by Ministry

21 March 2024

    Monastery Fundraising Saga Raises Questions

    In a recent development that has caught the attention of both the faithful and financial regulators, the Saint Habakkuk Monastery’s fundraising efforts have come under scrutiny. The monastery’s initial fundraiser, which ran from May to November 2021, successfully raised €85,000 for construction work. However, their application for a second fundraiser was rejected by the Ministry of Interior due to non-compliance with regulatory requirements.

    The Ministry had stipulated that the monastery must submit a building permit in order to proceed with their fundraising activities. Despite this directive and after the completion of the first fundraiser, the monastery reapplied for approval for a subsequent fundraiser without providing the necessary documentation. The Ministry responded by sending eight letters requesting the required documents, which were only provided by the monastery in 2023.

    Among the documents submitted were receipts for expenses incurred, such as payments to contractors. These receipts have yet to be examined and may potentially become a subject of police investigation. A particularly puzzling aspect of this case is the discovery of €807,000 in the monastery’s safe, a significant increase from the €85,000 raised through the single fundraiser. The source of these additional funds is currently under question, with one theory suggesting contributions made directly to the abbot rather than the monastery itself.

    The Ministry of Interior has historically granted approximately 80 permits annually for fundraisers, with proceeds amounting to around €10 million. However, there has been a growing trend of illegal fundraisers, especially as stricter controls are enforced. These unauthorized fundraisers often emerge when entities fail to meet the legal criteria for fundraising activities.

    According to the “Law on the Conduct of Fundraisers of 2014,” a fundraiser is defined as any appeal to the public for philanthropic or charitable purposes, excluding activities within religious institutions. While priests can request donations within church premises without accountability, permits are required for external fundraising efforts.

    It’s worth noting that while two applications for fundraisers to support a monastery on Mount Athos were submitted through the Archbishopric, a third was rejected. The Ministry has ceased considering applications for church and monastery support following citizen complaints about soliciting funds from low-income individuals.

    The unfolding situation at Saint Habakkuk Monastery serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between religious devotion and financial transparency. As authorities delve deeper into the monastery’s financial dealings, many are waiting for clarity on how religious entities manage their funds and adhere to legal frameworks.

    - A fundraiser was conducted by the Saint Habakkuk Monastery between May-November 2021, raising €85,000 for construction work within the monastery

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