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Austrian priest's luxury flat stirs controversy

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Austrian priest's luxury flat stirs controversy
Toni Faber and Claudia Stöckl in "5D Cinema". Photo: APA
15:24 CEST+02:00
An Austrian priest living in Vienna's luxury first district has attracted criticism for living the "high life." But all is not what it seems...

Canon Toni Faber lives in an opulent 100-square-metre rooftop apartment overlooking Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral..  

A recent profile in Der Standard newspaper stirred up a hornet's nest of criticism, due to perceptions that he was using church money to fund a luxury lifestyle in the most expensive area of Vienna's first district.

The church hit back by issuing a "clarification" that church taxes were not used to fund any aspect of the apartment, and that in fact renovations to the building had paid for themselves by increasing rents to other tenants.  

The interior furnishing and decorations were entirely paid for by Faber's salary, including more than 100 depictions of angels.  

A simmering controversy about the use of church taxes ('Kirchenbeitrag' - which are obligatory in Austria for registered Catholics) means that there is considerable resentment at perceived excesses of expenditure by the church.  

Depending on income, up to 400 euros must be paid annually.  The Catholic church has been known to use aggressive telephone collection agents to enforce payment of the taxes. In some cases, bailiffs have seized property to offset unpaid back taxes. 

In March, the Vatican removed German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, known as "the bishop of bling", from his post for authorizing the expenditure of 31 million euros of church funds on an extravagant residence.  

Pope Francis has consistently admonished his bishops around the world not to "live like princes", and has set an example by moving into relatively modest accommodations. 

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