POPE Benedict XVI is working on a doctrinal pronounce-ment that will condemn tax evasion as "socially unjust", according to Vatican sources.
In his second encyclical -- the most authoritative statement a pope can issue -- the pontiff will denounce the use of "tax havens" and off-shore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole.
It will focus on humanity's problems in an era of globalisation. Pope Benedict intends to argue for a world trade system "regulated in such a way as to avoid further injustice and discrimination," Ignazio Ingrao, a Vatican watcher, said yesterday
The encyclical, drafted during a recent holiday in northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples).
In it, the pontiff focused on "those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance and are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilisation.,He called on the West to promote an equitable world economic system based on social justice rather than profit.
This week, the Italian centre-left Government of Romano Prodi began a concerted crack-down on tax evaders, saying that it would target individuals with signs of "conspicuous wealth". If the black economy is included, unpaid taxes amount to 27pc of Italy's GDP.
Mr Prodi, a devout Catholic, urged church leaders to speak out on tax evasion, telling the Catholic magazine 'Famiglia Cristiana' that a third of Italians evaded taxes, which were needed for Italy's huge budget deficit.
"Why, when I go to Mass, is this issue almost never touched upon in homilies?" Mr Prodi asked, adding: "If memory serves, St Paul exhorted the faithful to obey authority."
As part of its crack-down, the government said that it was seeking taxes on undeclared earnings of €60m by Valentino Rossi, the world motorcycling champion. (© The Times, London)