Reformers call for clustering parishes to cease worldwide

The leaders of 24 reform groups are asking Pope Francis to halt the Church’s practice of clustering parishes as a response to the shortage of priests.

In an open letter, 32 signatories told the Pope that the future of parish life is “massively threatened”.

According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, the letter writers state that “active and vibrant parishes” are being merged into “anonymous and unmanageable structures”.

One result is that personal contact between people and ministers is being lost, the writers state.

Sacraments are removed ever further from the life of ordinary Catholics, in these cases.

This is leaving the faithful “alienated, unsettled and insecure” as priests are increasingly focused on administration instead of caring for souls.

New paths to vibrant parishes where everyone is “welcome without exception” are needed.

Calling for new models of ministry and new ways of managing parish life, the letter tells Francis that there is opposition to clustering among a cross-section of the faithful.

“Let us establish a new culture of co-responsibility and joint decision-making in all structures of our Church,” the signatories write.

New management models and forms of pastoral ministry would allow parishioners to participate according to their charisms, the reformers state.

“Let us open the priestly office to everyone who has the charism,” they continue.

The signatories warned Pope Francis: “Without active parishes, your vision [of the Church] lacks the foundation and the necessary strength to overcome opposition.”

Another concern for reformers, according to the NCR article, is that the current model of the parish council isn’t working.

Letter signatory Fr Tony Flannery from Ireland said: “Its weakness lies in the fact that it is a consulting body, while decision-making is still restricted to a small clerical group.”

“That must change if we are to have any sort of meaningful co-responsibility, from parishes right up to the Vatican,” he said.

“We need real responsibility for parish councils with the power of decision-making, which would allow priests to be free to do the ministerial work,” Fr Flannery said.


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