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In unusually combative language, the archbishop of Tijuana has accused Mexico's federal government of extorting money from the Catholic Church under the guise of taxation.

Archbishop Rafael Romo

In an interview published August 25 by the daily newspaper El Sol de Tijuana, archbishop Rafael Romo said new tax regulations requiring churches and all their subsidiaries to maintain strict books and to pay taxes on monies left over after accounting for expenses would do more harm to the needy than anyone else.

The Catholic Church currently operates hospitals and clinics, provides food, clothing, and shelter, and dispenses other forms of social assistance through parishes, schools, and religious orders across the city, he said. If every parish or organization providing such services must account for and assign a value to every item provided to the poor as well as provide receipts to every donor, many of them will get out of the business of helping the less fortunate rather than deal with the smothering new tax rules, the archbishop said.

The new tax regulations — part of a nationwide crackdown that has also provoked protests from business owners over the record-keeping involved — treat churches as if they were businesses and require them to pay taxes on their "profits," according to Archbishop Romo.

The archbishop invited politicians of all stripes to come with him on a visit of parishes across Tijuana so they can see for themselves "what the church is and what it does."

Though the archbishop took aim at the politicians behind the new regulations ("leftists who must abhor the church or they wouldn't be leftists"), he said the church would continue its work as best it could "because it is not the government for whom we work but God and our brothers."

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