“It’s time to tighten your belts”: why churches are being closed in Europe

MOSCOW, October 2 – Novosti, Nikita Bizin . Services on the street and remote, the reduction of the flock – the energy crisis hit not only large European companies, but also Christian communities in Europe. Churches are forced to cut spending. What they save on and what it will lead to – Novosti understood.

Precautionary measures

The Catholic Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has developed measures to help weather the cold. It has been calculated that the maintenance of the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary will require about 240 thousand euros. This is twice as much as usual. To save money, we decided to install photovoltaic systems on the roof. Inside, the temperature will be maintained at seven degrees.
“It is necessary to prepare our parishioners for this. Let them dress warmer. But it is important to prioritize correctly: cold churches are better than cold hospitals,” says Munich Archbishop Friedrich Vetter.
Humidity in rooms should not exceed 70 percent. “Otherwise, works of art and organs will suffer due to dampness,” he adds. While it is warm, services should be held outside.
© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Munich - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Munich
In neighboring Bamberg, night illumination was abandoned. “So we will save 15 thousand euros,” explained the local archbishop Ludwig Schick. The entire auxiliary infrastructure was also transferred to the economy mode: church kindergartens, schools and administrative institutions.
Employees were advised not to use the elevators. All business meetings have also been reduced to a minimum – they will be replaced by online conferences. Worship services are also remote – as in a pandemic.
© AP Photo / Martin Angelstein
Archbishop Ludwig Schick - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Archbishop Ludwig Schick

church tax

The fact is that earlier church premises were heated with coal and gas. “When sanctions were imposed against Russia, supplies were reduced,” Fyodor Sidorov, an analyst and founder of the “School of Practical Investment,” comments Novosti. “As a result, energy resources in the European market have risen sharply in price, tariffs have increased several times.” The expert adds: in a number of European countries, utilities have soared by 500 percent in a year, enterprises are on the verge of ruin.
Switching to alternative energy sources is not considered. According to preliminary estimates, this will cost each community more than 100,000 euros.
The clergy in Germany fund a church tax that has been in place since 1949. For parishioners, this is ten percent of the salary. Now, many simply do not pull so much.
A priest conducts a service in front of portraits of his parishioners in Hamm, Germany
“Church tithe” is also valid in Italy – but there is only 0.8 percent. The local clergy are sounding the alarm: this is extremely small.
So, in the diocese of Milan, they said that it was already difficult to monitor the state of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the famous Ambrosian Library, where rare books and manuscripts are stored.
“Buildings require special care: constant temperature and humidity. If earlier it took 10-12 thousand euros a year, now it is at least 60. And there are unforeseen expenses, such as restoration,” the diocese explained.
© AP Photo / Martin Meissner
Turned off lights on the Cologne Cathedral - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
Lights out on Cologne Cathedral
In order to somehow make ends meet, they began to sell real estate. Recently, a car repair shop was opened in a former church in Como. And in the Cathedral of All Saints in Viareggio – a pizzeria.
In Sweden, the church fee is one percent. Also not enough. In August, electricity tariffs rose by a third at once, inflation is breaking records.
The authorities are closing churches. “The maintenance of church buildings becomes a heavy burden,” Markus Dahlberg, head of the cultural heritage department of the Church of Sweden, justifies himself.
Only in one parish of Goetinge-Oskarström in the south of the country were closed three of the seven churches. In the community of Malmö, it was proposed to move all events to one building, and leave those that are visited the least often empty until spring.
© AP Photo / Jens Meyer ,
A woman lights a candle in the Church of St. Nicholas in Leipzig, Germany - Novosti, 1920, 09/30/2022
A woman lights a candle in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany

social tension

The current energy crisis may have a negative impact on European Christianity as a whole, believes Roman Lunkin, head of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “In recent decades, there have already experienced several waves of outflow of the flock. Some believers were not satisfied with the fashionable liberal course towards same-sex marriages and the female priesthood, while others were not satisfied with the passive position of the clergy towards migrants,” he explains.
Economic difficulties are a much more powerful factor. People will demand to be exempted from the church tax. “However, this also has a downside. In Germany, for example, since 2021, the rule has been in effect: if a Catholic does not pay tithing, he is automatically excommunicated from the church,” the expert added.
In mid-September, the Bishop of Amsterdam, Jan Hendrix, released a disappointing report. In the next five years, 99 out of 164 parishes in his diocese will close. The reasons are the same – the reduction of the flock, economic unprofitability. This seems to be the case throughout Europe.
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