No more mega-parishes, Pope told

May 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

ChurchCalifornia, May 19, 2015: Catholic reform groups meeting in Ireland have called on Pope Francis to halt the Church’s policy of clustering parishes into megaparishes, NCR Online reports.

Leaders from 24 international reform groups who met in Limerick, Ireland, in April are urging Pope Francis to call for a halt to the Church’s policy of clustering parishes into megaparishes as a response to the decline in priest numbers.

In an open letter, the 32 signatories — from groups such as Catholics for Renewal in Australia, A Call to Action in England, and the Society for Open Christianity for the 21st Century in Slovakia — tell Francis that the future of parish life is “massively threatened.”

Bishops seeking to address the priest shortage are “merging active and vibrant parishes into anonymous and unmanageable superstructures,” the letter said.

While merging seems to be “the formula of the hour,” the reform leaders warn that in these new megaparishes, personal contact between people and ministers is being lost as the sacraments are removed ever further from the everyday life of church citizens.

This is leaving the faithful “alienated, unsettled and insecure” as priests are increasingly focussed on administration instead of caring for souls.

Signatories included Fr Helmut Schüller of the Austrian Pfarrer-Initiative in Austria; Martha Heizer, the excommunicated chair of We Are Church Austria; and Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch in the US.

They were among delegates from more than 10 countries who met in Ireland during April 13-17 to discuss the governance of the church and to develop strategies for church reform.

Calling for new models of ministry and new ways of managing parish life, the letter tells Francis that there is opposition to clustering among a cross-section of the faithful — young and old, divorced and remarried, gay and straight — and that new paths to vibrant parishes where everyone is “welcome without exception” are needed.

“Let us establish a new culture of co-responsibility and joint decision-making in all structures of our Church,” they write.

– cns

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