Vatican de­vel­ops church sale guide

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Ni­cole Win­field As­so­ci­ated Press

New rules help en­sure churches re­tain their cul­tural her­itage and serve the good of the com­mu­nity.

ROME — The Vatican and bish­ops have de­vel­oped pro­posed guidelines for the sale or reuse of Catholic churches to help en­sure that they re­tain their cul­tural her­itage and serve the good of the com­mu­nity, not com­merce.

With some churches be­ing turned into dis­cos, gela­te­rias or de­mol­ished, the guidelines sug­gest that if the church can­not be given to an­other Chris­tian com­mu­nity, it should be reused for cul­tural or so­ci­etal aims. Those would in­clude be­ing used as a mu­seum, a li­brary or con­fer­ence hall, a food bank for the poor or char­ity cen­ter.

The guidelines were be­ing fi­nal­ized at a Vat­i­can­backed con­fer­ence last week that was in­ten­tion­ally provoca­tive in its ti­tle: “Doesn’t God dwell here any­more?” It was ev­i­dence that the Catholic hi­er­ar­chy is aware that it has too many churches on its hands that it can no longer main­tain, par­tic­u­larly in Eu­rope, where sec­u­lar trends have emp­tied pews.

Pope Fran­cis urged del­e­gates to re­mem­ber that churches and the re­li­gious art inside them “are wit­ness to the faith of the com­mu­nity.” Any de­ci­sion about their fu­ture uses should con­sider the needs of the poor and be taken “in di­a­logue” with the com­mu­nity, he said.

Mon­signor Pawel Malecha, a top canon lawyer at the Vatican high court, cited Ger­man statis­tics that found more than 500 Ger­man churches had been closed from 2000-2017, with a third of them de­mol­ished and the rest sold or des­tined for other uses.

Catholics in the Nether­lands es­ti­mate that twothirds of their 1,6 0 0 churches will be closed down within the next 10 years, he said.

Fran­cis urged bish­ops to re­mem­ber that “we’re talk­ing about the faith of the peo­ple of God. And as long as there is faith, the peo­ple of God will need churches.”

ANTONIO CALANNI/AP 2017

A woman plays ten­nis last year as part of an in­stal­la­tion of Amer­i­can artist Asad Raza, set in the 16th-cen­tury San Paolo Con­verso de­con­se­crated church in Mi­lan, Italy.

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