Earthquakes Impact Diocesan Planning in New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (CNS) – Christchurch Diocese will reduce the number of parishes by more than half, Bishop Barry Jones announced.

The bishop said that because of a diminishing number of clergy, the number of parishes will be reduced from 50 to 24. He said larger parishes formed from two or more consolidated parishes will have two resident priests, and a parish may have more than one church.

“Sunday Mass is at the heart of the life of the church. Its weekly celebration comes to us from the apostles themselves,” said Bishop Jones in a document, “The Provision of Sunday Mass in the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch.” He made it clear that Sunday Mass and parish life require a priest: “No priest, no Mass.”

A diocesanwide consultation leading to the changes began before the magnitude 6.3 earthquakes in February. Bishop Jones visited all pastoral areas and invited submissions. Well-attended meetings were followed by large numbers of responses.

With people from more than 6,000 Christchurch homes moving west and north and out of the city because of earthquakes, Bishop Jones said future needs for churches are not yet clear and figuring out the demographics will take time.

Some quake-damaged churches may be rebuilt, depending on insurance demands, earthquake proneness and requirements of the diocesan earthquake strategy, he said.