Hundreds of churches in Germany are closing

Because of declining church attendances and financial difficulties, hundreds of Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany are closing. One estimate is that 15,000 of the 45,000 churches in the country will soon be no longer needed.

“These buildings are simply too opulent, too empty and too expensive to maintain, something akin to an aging grandmother still living in a mansion when just one room would do,” said a report on Spiegel Online.

There are churches standing empty even in staunchly Catholic Bavaria — the home of Pope Benedict XVI, the report said, and one has been closed even in the famous pilgrimage site of Telgte, near Münster, which has a shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The situation for Catholic churches is particularly bad in the Ruhr region of western Germany and in northern Germany, places that saw an influx of refugees from the former German lands of Silesia and East Prussia after the Second World War.

Now many of these regions’ small Catholic churches, often built in an unappealing modern style, are at high risk of being demolished.

In Hildesheim diocese, one out of every two churches is on the endangered list, while in Essen diocese 83 churches are slated for demolition and another 13 have already been torn down. The situation is the worst in Wilhelmshaven, where six out of nine Catholic churches are slated to be destroyed.

The archdiocese of Berlin is offering for sale on eBay “a church in a popular residential area” in the city of Brandenburg, and websites have sprung up to market unwanted pulpits and altars.

Yet many church properties do not find a buyer. Most churches have cold floors and high ceilings, and lack kitchen facilities, so even give-away prices are often not enough of an incentive. The Maria Goretti Chapel in the small northeastern city of Demmin, for example, costs just $NZ31,500, but no one wants to buy it.

Thomas Begrich, head of finances for the Evangelical Church of Germany, the country’s largest federation of Protestant churches, said it closed 340 churches between 1990 and 2010, and “it may be necessary to give up an additional 1000 buildings”.


Spiegel Online

Image: Spiegel Online

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