CHURCHES CRUMBLE IN FRANCE WHILE LESS THAN 5 PERCENT ATTEND MASS
Churches all over Europe are falling into disrepair. The populace lacks the faith to make their restoration a priority which in turn renders the sacred monuments to God and Europe's cultural heritage nothing more than a financial albatross.
Excerpts from iht: "Mayor Jean-Pierre Leger was married and baptized his children at Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens church in this village in western France. Not without sadness, he is now planning to bulldoze the 19th century building.
The dilemma of what to do with churches that have fallen out of favor — and into disrepair — is facing towns and villages across France and other European countries. Some communities have dynamited churches deemed too expensive to maintain. Others have taken a less radical approach, selling them as housing.
In traditionally Roman Catholic France, fewer than 5 percent of the nation's 62 million people attend Mass every week, down from 27 percent a half-century ago, according to a survey of more than 29,000 people published by the Ifop polling agency in 2006.
Leger says the decision to bulldoze most of Geste's church was tough but logical. For €1.35 million (US$2.13 million) — less than half the cost of a restoration — the 2,400 villagers will get a new church built around the bell tower of the existing structure, which will be preserved along with the crypt.
The crumbling current church "has 1,000 seats. It's five times too big for the congregation that usually comes," said the mayor. "People prefer a more modern church, that's more cheerful and warm, instead of a huge one where they get lost in all the space." (Emphasis added)
Jewels of religious architecture, like Notre Dame de Paris, have funding from the national government. Not so, however, for tens of thousands of lesser churches, especially rural chapels, many of which host Mass for their dwindling parishioners only once every few weeks. The ages of such churches vary, though many are over 100 years old.
Burdened by debt and struggling to revive the economy, the French government can't help much. Culture Minister Christine Albanel has floated some unusual fundraising ideas for preserving significant monuments, including churches; one idea is a game from the national lottery service, another a tax of €2 tax (US$3.15) for guests at luxury hotels.
The government and the Catholic Church are to discuss what to do at a June conference. Under a quirk of French law that governs the separation of church and state, most churches are owned by the towns where they are located. That means they have to pay for all repairs if structures are not classed as historic monuments and thus eligible for state funds."
"France has so many parish churches that neither Catholic nor government authorities have an accurate count. The Culture Ministry says 60,000 is its best guess.
"It's unclear exactly how many are nearing ruin. A Culture Ministry report in January said 41 percent of the most significant monuments — churches and other buildings — are in poor shape or endangered, compared with 32 percent five years ago. That doesn't take into account ordinary, but still lovely, village churches.
"When you lose a town's church, you somehow lose the entire character of the town," said Alain Guinberteau, an architecture fan compiling an online inventory of France's steeples."
"...In Britain, churches have been turned into apartments, cafes, warehouses — even a circus school. In Rome, at the heart of Catholicism, deconsecrated churches are art galleries and a restaurant. A few European churches are being converted into mosques..."