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Rome Reports

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Vatican asks dioceses not to abandon disused churches

In some dioceses there are abandoned churches. This is especially the case in places where faith has decreased and rural areas have become depopulated.

The maintenance of a church can be a difficult task, especially if economic resources are scarce. There can also be a strong temptation to sell these once-used sacred buildings, but it can be a risk. For example, new owners sometimes use them for disrespectful activities such as nightclubs.

Episcopal Conference of Italy
“Selling of a church means abandoning it to its own fate, to the interests of others, rather than for why the building was built.”

Valerio Pennasso worked at the congress organized at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Representatives of 23 episcopal conferences attended to study how to manage dioceses with churches in disuse. 

Following the meetings, the Vatican issued a document with several guidelines. It reminds everyone of the protocols to follow before selling a church; and encourages people to preserve their property, out of respect for the past generations who built it.

Episcopal Conference of Italy
“Churches, convents and also paintings, statues, Sacred art for worship... We could use this heritage to tell the story of the communities that built it.”

This is what the 'Catalonia Sacra' project in Spain has done. There, several dioceses joined forces to carry out a project that goes beyond tourism. They carried out a campaign to encourage people to visit their historic parishes. Art-laden buildings reflect the feelings of their own people from centuries ago. 

Catalonia Sacra
“This rich patrimony that exists in the Catalonian Church is made known so that the believer may rediscover it and the non-believer may make a new discovery.” “It seems to me that presenting our heritage helps everyone ask questions and talk to each other.”

The pope has also written a message in this regard. He has said that churches, although no longer used for celebrating Mass, can be reused in other ways to help those in need. 

He underlines the example of saints like St. Lawrence, who was captured by Roman soldiers and asked to show the treasures of the Church. Instead he showed them all the poor and abandoned whom he cared for.