Larger pastoral communities replace traditional parishes

The Barcelona diocese in Spain is refocusing overstretched parish resources into larger pastoral communities.

In one instance a priest is running 40 parishes single-handedly, Fr Antoni Matabosch Soler told NCR.

Soler, a theologian helping plan Barcelona’s reorganization, says some priests are now “pushed to the limit.”

Parish restructuring will be the future for many Spanish dioceses, he says.

“A central church at the centre of the community in each area could have specialist parishes and churches around it, with one dedicated to young people, for example, and another to welcoming migrants,” he suggests.

Despite Catholic church membership making up 61 percent of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants, falling church attendance and secularisation are behind the reorganisation.

A statement on Barcelona’s archdiocesan website says most Spanish dioceses are facing the same process.

The plan is for between three and six parishes to be grouped together, resulting in 48 pastoral communities.

“The intention of an eventual diocesan reorganization is better distribution of pastoral resources, to obtain maximum pastoral efficiency and adequate support for the resulting pastoral units,” the website says.

“The aim is to reinforce common work and synodality among priests, laity, religious and deacons, when it is more difficult today for parishes to offer a full range of services.”

News of the reorganization comes amid continuing disputes over plans by the Spanish government to make the Catholic Church relinquish what Spain says are improperly acquired assets.

More than a third of the country’s 70 Catholic dioceses are currently in deficit, according to the church’s latest annual activity report. At the same time, over four million people rely on the Church’s charitable help.

The Barcelona diocese has been in touch with dioceses in France, Germany, Belgium and Italy, who said they were making “similar decisions,” and parish restructuring will be the future for many Spanish dioceses.


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