Catholic Church fined for overstating number of members to receive more state funding in Norway

Diocese of Oslo faces accusations of adding immigrants with Catholic names to member list without their knowledge

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The Independent Online

The Norwegian Catholic Church has been fined for overstating the number of its members in an attempt to receive more state funding. 

The church is accused of looking for immigrants with names that would suggest they were of Catholic origin and adding them to the list of members without their knowledge. 

Prosecutors have given the Diocese of Oslo, responsible for keeping records of Catholics living in the country, a one million kroner (£95,000) fine.

If the church refuses to pay the fine it will face trial and the chief administrative officer of the diocese has already been charged with aggravated fraud, prosecutors have said.

"We've never done anything illegal or received too much money," the Catholic Church said in a statement, AFP reported. 

"We have always recognised that we have made mistakes and had an unfortunate practise in parts of our registration. This was cleaned up a long (time) ago."

In Norway the state finances religious groups in accordance with the number of members.

The church claimed from 2004 there was an increase in immigration from Catholic countries such as Poland and these members were not registered, leading to an increase in spending without the corresponding increase in state funding. 

Separately from the fine, the Norwegian state is demanding the church repay the 40.6 million kroner (£3.8 million), which was overpaid. 

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