Pope urges charity when churches are sold, reused
ROME — The Vatican and bishops from Europe and beyond 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 outright, 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 Vatican-backed conference Thursday that was intentionally provocative in its title: “Doesn’t God dwell here anymore?” It was evidence that the Catholic hierarchy is well 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.
In a message read out at the start of the conference, 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.
Francis said the fact that churches today are no longer necessary “should be welcomed in the church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the times that invites us to reflection and requires us to adapt.”