Archdiocese grapples with reducing number of churches

number of churches

RNZ has reported that some Catholics in Wellington are unhappy with cardinal John Dew’s letter to all parishes in the archdiocese asking them to review the number of churches in their parish.

The RNZ report says they accuse him of being high-handed and autocratic.

But Dew denies this. He says he has simply asked congregations to consider the issues and think about ways of handling the challenge.

He says people have to be realistic about the number of churches the archdiocese can afford to retain and maintain.

Since 2013 the number of parishes in the archdiocese has been reduced from 47 to 22.

“If we have a parish with four churches, can we actually afford to maintain [all of them]? Can we afford to insure [them]?” Dew asks.

Another element of the problem is that five churches, including the cathedral church in Thorndon, are closed because of their earthquake risk.

Nine more require significant work.

Stephen Neal is the parish council chairman of the Wellington South parish which was formed by combining 4 parishes in the area.

The new parish has retained all four churches and Neal says there could be some problems with reducing that number.

He points out that Wellington is geographically challenging.

“Brooklyn’s high up and St Francis de Sales is down in Island Bay and there’s also St Anne’s in Newtown, so if we were to consolidate there would be accessibility questions, particularly for the elderly.

“There are also questions about loss of identity and ways of acting or operating that a particular community has had for a long time.”

Dew hopes some of the money freed up from consolidating the number of church buildings could be used to meet new priorities identified by Pope Francis.

“To look and see where there might be poor people, or where there might be people who are struggling.”

Parishes have until the end of October to deliver their proposals for reducing church numbers.


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