Slash: Austria to close hundreds of parishes

This is stunning, from the National Catholic Reporter:  

The Vienna archdiocese, which is one of the largest in Europe and extends from the Czech frontier down to the southern Alps, will undergo radical parish reforms, reducing its 660 parishes to 150 in the next 10 years.

“This is the most comprehensive reorganization of the Vienna archdiocese since that of Austrian Emperor Joseph II [1765-1790] 200 years ago,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn told journalists at a Sept. 19 media reception in the archbishop’s palace in Vienna.

The main reasons for these measures were the increasing shortage of priests and the steady decline in the number of Catholics, especially of those who regularly attended Mass and were involved in their local parishes, the cardinal explained.

“I am fully aware that these reforms denote a far-reaching change of perspective,” Schönborn said. “We must take leave of the traditional concept that the church is only present where there is a priest. That is a restricted view that has developed over time but which must now be corrected. Church is community, and leading offices in the church should in principle be carried out collaboratively, even if the parish priest has the final responsibility according to canon law.”

The “common priesthood of all the baptized” will take center stage from now on, Schönborn said, meaning that those who have been baptized and confirmed will be responsible for evangelization and pastoral work. The reform is meant to bring about a new form of cooperation between priests and lay Catholics based on their common vocation to Christianity, he said.

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