ROME (AP) — The Vatican and bishops from Europe and beyond have developed guidelines for the sale or reuse of Catholic Churches to help ensure that they retain their cultural heritage and serve the community, not commerce.
The guidelines were being finalized at a Vatican-backed conference Thursday that was intentionally provocative in its title: "Doesn't God dwell here anymore?" It was evidence that the Catholic hierarchy is well aware that it has too many churches on its hands that it can no longer maintain, particularly in Europe.
Pope Francis urged delegates to remember that churches and religious art "are witness of the faith of the community." He called for any decision about their sale or reuse to consider the needs of the poor and be taken "in dialogue" with the community.