Palo archdiocese in the central Philippines will provide a "standard living allowance" for its 140 priests as part of financial reforms to be instituted next year. "This will be a big help for us. At least we will be assured that we will be receiving something every month," the archdiocese's spokesman Fr Amadeo Alvero said on Monday. The "living allowance" will range from US$113 to $226 every month for each priest. At present, priests in the diocese rely on donations from parishioners for their sustenance. They also have to pay for their own medical insurance, social security contributions, and retirement and pension plans. Alvero said the reform being initiated is not a reaction to reports that some members of the clergy have been receiving financial and material support from corrupt politicians. Recent reports have linked Monsignor Josefino Ramirez of Manila archdiocese to the "pork barrel," an expression used to describe a district representative’s appropriation of government funds for local projects. Aside from reportedly receiving financial support from Janet Lim-Napoles, the businesswoman recently accused in a high profile scandal of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from pork barrel funds, Ramirez was found to have been living in one of Napoles' upmarket properties. In 2011, two bishops and several priests were also implicated in another scandal when they were found to have received sports utility vehicles that cost $38,000 each from a state gambling facility. Alvero said the reason for the financial reforms is for priests to be able to have a "decent life." Fr Virgilio Cañete, parish priest of Dulag town, said the financial reform will allow priests to focus on their ministry and not be burdened with managing the finances of the parish. "The broader and deeper objective is for parish communities to be fully conscious and responsible for the needs and sustenance of the parish," he said on Monday. The priest said that the burden of maintaining the budget for the operational expenses of the local church will have to be assumed by the parishioners. Palo archdiocese, which was established as a diocese in 1937 and elevated into an archdiocese in 1982, has 64 parishes serving about 1.2 million Catholics.
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