Closed churches – Pope explains what to do next

Closed churches – empty and unused – and what to do with them, is a vexing problem.

Sacrilegious redevelopment has become an especially pressing issue to the Vatican because thousands of Catholic churches around the world have closed during the past two decades. Some have been turned into discos, gelaterias or have been demolished.

Last week, in a written message to a Vatican conference focusing on how to preserve the beauty and the sacredness of now-empty and unused Catholic churches, Pope Francis said:

“The common sense of the faithful perceives of the environments and objects destined for worship the permanence of a kind of imprint that does not end even after they have lost that destination.”

He told the “God No Longer Lives Here?” conference that Catholic churches which are no longer being used for worship can still be preserved.

In this way, these churches can be “witnesses to the faith of the community that produced them in the past and for this reason they are in their own way instruments of evangelisation.”

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.”

The conference, which brought together academics, bishops and church officials from across Europe, North America and Australia, aimed to do just that by providing case studies of how dioceses handled particular cases disposing of aging, expensive assets, and by developing guidelines for bishops going forward.

Guidelines for the churches’ sale or reuse were developed during the conference. These will help ensure the churches retain their cultural heritage and serve the good of the community, not commerce.

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 centre.

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News category: World.

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