Berlin, Germany, Jan 21, 2013 / 09:50 am
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has finalized plans to cut the number of churches in the Archdiocese of Berlin by over 70 percent in seven years.
The archdiocese's 105 churches will be reduced to 30 parishes by 2020, he told Katholische Nachrichten Agentur in a Jan. 16 interview.
This decision, originally unveiled in a pastoral letter on Dec. 2, will affect 400,000 Catholics in northeast Germany.
This means an average reduction of 11 churches a year in an area that includes Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenberg-Vorpommern.
"This isn't just an administrative reform, it's also a spiritual one," said archdiocesan spokesman Stefan Forner.
In September, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn also decided to slash 510 churches in his Vienna archdiocese, reducing its number of parishes from 660 to 150.
The cuts in the Berlin archdiocese are not the first the Church has gone through. Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, the predecessor of Cardinal Woelki, halved the number of parishes six years ago because of the archdiocese's $140 million debt, following the reunification of East and West Germany.
With the number of current churches, each one should be offering Sunday Mass to an average of 3,810 parishioners, if all the archdiocese's Catholics are practicing their faith.