Debate: Should the Church give up on the old-fashioned ‘single-priest’ parish?

In years to come priests may live in communities instead of on their own (Photo: Mazur/

Vienna archdiocese, we report this week, is about to start closing more than three quarters of its parishes. Over the next decade, 660 parishes will be reduced to 150 larger parishes, each served by three to five priests.

Michael Prüller, archdiocesan spokesman, said the Church had to change its “old-fashioned structures” and that the reorganisation offered “a model for Church reforms throughout Europe”.

Mr Prüller suggested that priests were not needed “in every small town and village”. But what about elderly or ill people who are unable to leave the house? A single priest is also, surely, more immersed in the lives of his parishioners than a community of men who are able to look after each other.

On the other hand, it is easy to see that missionary energy might be easier to maintain in a parish with a community of priests rather than one lone priest. The Apostles themselves formed a close brotherhood rather than working in isolation.

So, should dioceses around Europe follow Vienna archdiocese in slashing the number of parishes and grouping priests together? Or are parishes more effective with one lone priest fully immersed in the life of his flock?