German Diocese to Take Brave Step of Massive Parish Closings

German Diocese to Take Brave Step of Massive Parish Closings March 5, 2018
St. Paulinus Basilica, Trier (Pixabay)

The Diocese of Trier in Germany will reduce its number of parishes from 172 to 35 by the year 2020, according to an announcement made by Bishop Stephan Ackermann on February 16. The reorganization of the local Church in the Moselle wine region in the western part of the country comes after other dioceses in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands and numerous other European countries have made similar plans to more than halve the number of local churches that provide Masses and other pastoral care initiatives to their communities.

In comments published on the diocesan website, Bishop Ackermann said that although structuring the Church around the parish unit is a model that “has been integral to Western Christian civilization, it’s also faced profound and rapid change”. “This has necessitated new models and stronger network systems. We simply cannot continue as in the past“, said the bishop.

In an interview with the Catholic News Service, diocesan spokeswoman Judith Rupp said the remodelling in Trier had come about not only because of inefficiency around “administration and structural issues” but also because of Pope Francis’ repeated calls for the faithful to exercise a “missionary creativity”. “The great challenge for Christians in our own diocese is a pastoral one”, explained Rupp. “We want to focus more strongly on people’s needs and integrate the charisms of the baptized into church life more than before”.

In each new parish, priests, deacons and full-time lay pastoral ministers “will all work on different issues and tasks”, continued the spokeswoman, acknowledging that although “not everyone agrees with our plan” and “many still need convincing”, “overall… the faithful understand the needs for a comprehensive reform”.

“We’re trying to change the image of the parish more radically than other dioceses, by introducing a highly pluralistic pastoral framework”, said Rupp. “Changes are plainly required in the Church’s life and structures”.

Big changes in Europe

That “changes” are needed in the “Church’s life and structures” in the face of rising operational costs the massive decline in active Church membership that has snowballed in the past decade is something of an understatement. The details provided by the CNS of some of the other diocesan reorganizations planned or currently underway in Europe make for sobering reading:

Berlin: 105 parishes to be reduced to 35 “pastoral spaces”, with unused churches to be sold off and 40% of clergy and lay staffers reassigned, thereby alleviating some of the Diocese’s $140 million debt

Vienna: 660 parishes to be merged into 150 hubs served by a handful of priests

Luxembourg: 274 parishes reduced to 33

Clogher, Ireland: 37 parishes cut to 14 “pastoral areas” coordinated by teams of just two priests and six laypeople

Utrecht: 326 parishes to just 48 hubs in which only one church will serve as a “eucharistic center”

What to think then about the clearly widespread phenomenon of such drastic reorganizations in the Church? Diocesan leaders in these places most affected by the harsh cultural and demographic realities of the 21st century are to be congratulated for their willingness both to cut costs and also to recognize that the infrastructure of centuries past will not serve to carry out the New Evangelization so desperately needed in Europe today. The biggest advante I see in these plans, however, is the greater role in Church life that they will give laypeople: an asset far more valuable to Catholicism even than the monumental church buildings in which they congregate and worship.

View of a church in Trier, Germany (Pixabay)
"I watched that. I now see it as propaganda covering up a dark secret. I ..."

Pope Francis, Framed
"I was blown away by this film. While watching it, I actually thought that God ..."

Pope Francis, Framed
"One notes that Vigano himself, by not turning over his "documented proof", is now doing ..."

Cardinal Condemns “Unfair” Viganò “Rebellion” Against ..."
"No, dear Mr. Cardinal - you have this all wrong! We are not the ones ..."

Cardinal Condemns “Unfair” Viganò “Rebellion” Against ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Procopius

    35? That many? Do they have enough migrants to fill them?

  • Dorothy

    The German Church makes billions of dollars from the Kirchensteur (church tax) every year. Yes, the billions are going down because fed-up, heavily-taxed Germans are apostatising to avoid paying the one tax they can. (So far none of the bishops has made headlines for suggesting German Catholics who don’t pay the tax may still receive the sacraments.) The question is, why are those billions (or even one billion) plowed into missionary efforts (among the Germans) and catechesis? How could a Church so stinkingly rich be so increasingly poor in adherents?

  • Ancalagon

    I’m sure the Saudis will be more than happy to buy the properties and convert them into mosques.

  • Gail Finke

    “The biggest advante I see in these plans, however, is the greater role in Church life that they will give laypeople: an asset far more valuable to Catholicism even than the monumental church buildings in which they congregate and worship.” THAT’S what you see about to happen???

  • vermicelli

    “The biggest advante I see in these plans, however, is the greater role in Church life that they will give laypeople: an asset far more valuable to Catholicism even than the monumental church buildings in which they congregate and worship.”

    Talk about whistling last the graveyard. What is happening to the Church in Europe is a catastrophe of biblical proportions. There is no silver lining.

  • Fearan Iarthair

    This bizarre article, a browsing of the titles of your others, and your “Western” interests reveal you to be nothing more than a liberal globalist in Catholic drag. And your numbers, alas, are legion. But, thank God, dying. You Cathoic ancestors do not know who you are.

  • Ancalagon

    Its really amazing. His optimism is pure cuckoldry. “The biggest advance I see here is that my wife is happy with her boyfriend.”

  • ravitchn

    Let’s hope this is a sign that the evil mafioso Catholic church is truly on its way out.