The Netherlands is facing mass closures of churches, with the Diocese of Utrecht likely to lose five in six, a researcher has warned.
Joris Kregting, from the Dutch research centre KASKI, said that some dioceses are planning to merge parishes, “while others are looking more towards the cooperation of parishes”.
Why was it under-reported?
The story represents, not a sudden headline-grabbing development, but a long-term trend: according to KASKI. In the 1960s, 55 per cent of the Netherlands’ 2.7 million Catholics still went to Mass regularly. By 2000 average weekly Mass attendance was down to 439,000; in 2017, to 157,900 people.
In some ways, it’s an old story of rapid European secularisation. But KASKI is promising a close look at the data, and working with Katholiek Nieuwsblad to examine how the trend is affecting particular areas.
What will happen next?
As Katholiek Nieuwsblad’s Michiel van de Kamp pointed out in an article for Crux, the closures present the Church with dilemmas: “Should the church be restored, demolished, sold or perhaps be remodelled and made into a community centre?”
Dutch Catholics will hope that the remaining churches will be beacons of faith. Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht told Lifesite in May: “I also think it is important that we first restore the situation in the Church – that is, that the faithful know their faith again.”
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