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Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, the top official of the Catholic Church in Norway, has formally denied charges that he and other leaders of the Catholic diocese in Oslo swindled the Norwegian state to the tune of NOK 50 million. He claimed the leadership and staff of the church were “extremely unhappy” over the charges and would cooperate with the police investigation.
Eidsvig, the diocese itself and its finance director were charged on Thursday with fraudulently obtaining state funding based on false membership statistics for the church. County officials had already accused the diocese of inflating its membership numbers, which are used to determine amounts of state funding for all religious organizations in Norway.
“Our intention was never to register anyone (as a member of the church) against their will, or to obtain support for non-Catholics,” Eidsvig wrote in a press release Thursday evening. The church has been accused of registering all immigrants to Norway who come from largely Catholic countries, without asking them whether they actually wanted to join the church.
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