Vatican develops church sale guide
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.”
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.