Vienna Will Close 75% of Parishes

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – Austria’s Vienna Archdiocese will press ahead with a major reorganization that will including liquidating most of its parishes over 10 years, despite objections from some local Catholics.

The archdiocese’s 660 parishes will be merged over the next decade into around 150 larger parishes, each served by three to five priests and offering regular Masses.

“Our emphasis isn’t just on reorganizing the church, but on reinvigorating the missionary impulses of the entire Christian community,” said Michael Pruller, archdiocesan spokesman. “Although we can debate how best to achieve it, the plan’s main aim isn’t open to discussion.”

Pruller told Catholic News Service that falling numbers of clergy and laity had necessitated the changes. He said smaller affiliated communities within the parishes will be run by lay volunteers authorized to conduct the Liturgy of the Word.

Pruller said archdiocesan bishops would draft the new parish boundaries and steps for implementing the reorganization by Jan. 1.

He added that experiences from Latin America, Africa and Asia suggested ordained priests were not needed “in every small town and village” and that larger parishes could be introduced “without losing the nearness of people to their church.”

“As society changes, the church has to change its old-fashioned practices and structures, too,” he said.

“The church’s mission of apostolate and evangelization isn’t just the responsibility of parish priests, but of the whole community of baptized and confirmed. If this reorganization creates more vibrant Christian communities, praying, celebrating Mass, conducting mission and helping the needy together, then it could offer a model for church reforms throughout Europe.”