Vat­i­can eyes guide­lines on proper uses for sold churches

Con­fer­ence will ex­am­ine pos­si­ble fu­tures for build­ings

Yuma Sun - - NATION / WORLD -

VAT­I­CAN CITY — The Vat­i­can is draft­ing guide­lines to help Catholic dio­ce­ses find ap­pro­pri­ate ways to decommission un­needed churches so they don’t end up as dis­cos, gym­na­si­ums or gelato shops.

The Vat­i­can’s cul­ture min­istry is team­ing up with Rome’s Je­suit-run Pon­tif­i­cal Gre­go­rian Univer­sity and the Ital­ian bish­ops’ con­fer­ence to host an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Novem­ber on man­ag­ing the sale of churches and han­dling of their as­sets. The event al­ready has a ti­tle: “Doesn’t God Dwell Here Any­more?”

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Car­di­nal Gian­franco Ravasi told re­porters on Tues­day that many dio­ce­ses in Europe, North Amer­ica and Aus­tralia have more churches than they need or can main­tain, thanks to an in­creas­ingly sec­u­lar­ized so­ci­ety, fewer church-go­ing Catholics and fi­nan­cial con­straints.

The Vat­i­can wants to en­sure the build­ings main­tain some of the spir­i­tual, cul­tural and so­cial value they had as con­se­crated places of wor­ship, Ravasi said.

“If it’s used in an in­tel­li­gent way,” such as for pas­toral work or cul­tural or so­cial meet­ings or even as a book­store or li­brary, the church could sign off on it, the car­di­nal said. “But mak­ing it a gela­te­ria? It’d be dif­fi­cult.”

Ravasi cited the decom­mis­sion­ing of a Prague church that was turned into a night­club as a de­cid­edly in­cor­rect way of dis­pos­ing of a once-sa­cred space. Italy in par­tic­u­lar is grap­pling with the is­sue given its vast num­ber of ar­tis­ti­cally im­por­tant churches and too few re­sources to main­tain them, espe­cially the ones dam­aged by fre­quent earth­quakes.

An­other key cri­te­ria will be a way to en­sure that any sig­nif­i­cant art­works in­side a church be­ing put up for sale — fres­coes, stat­ues or other work — are re­moved and placed in a dioce­san mu­seum “to leave the space as bare as pos­si­ble” when new own­ers take over, Ravasi said.

The Vat­i­can sent a draft of the pro­posed guide­lines to bish­ops’ con­fer­ences and plans to fi­nal­ize them dur­ing the Nov. 29-30 con­fer­ence. A pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hibit of suc­cess­fully de­com­mis­sioned churches also is in the works.

Ravasi is plan­ning the con­fer­ence on prop­erly dis­pos­ing of ex­tra churches while his min­istry is en­joy­ing critics’ praise for its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Venice ar­chi­tec­tural bi­en­nale: The Holy See com­mis­sioned 10 new, evoca­tive chapels in the woods of Venice’s San Gior­gio is­land.


PEO­PLES CEL­E­BRATE IN CHI­ANG RAI AF­TER DIVERS EVAC­U­ATED the 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave in the Mae Sai district of Chi­ang Rai prov­ince, north­ern Thai­land, on Tues­day. Thai Navy SEALs say all 12 boys and their coach were res­cued from the cave, end­ing an or­deal that lasted more than 2 weeks.

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