Catholic church rapidly disappearing from Netherlands, archbishop says

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Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan) cross, jesus, roman catholic . (Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan))

The Catholic Church is rapidly disappearing from the Netherlands. Over ten years the entire archdiocese of Utrecht will probably only consist of 10 to 15 churches that still hold the Eucharistic celebrations, compared to the current 280 churches, Archbishop Wim Eijk said in an interview with the Gelderlander.

According to Eijk, 10 percent of the parishes in his diocese are actually bankrupt, 10 percent are still rich and the other 80 percent are somewhere in between. The aging Catholic population and a rapid decline in church attendance is causing a problematic situation. Every year catholic church attendance decreases by 5 to 6 percent. And fewer and fewer people support their church financially. 

Officially the Netherlands has 3.5 million Catholic residents, but the vast majority of them never go to church, the Archbishop said. On average 173,500 people attend a Catholic church over the weekend, according to figures from the Nijmegen institute Kaski. "The church is not closed by people who are still coming or by me, but by those who stay away and do not contribute anymore", Eijk said to the newspaper.

One big problem is the high maintenance costs of the large, monumental churches. Keeping them open is becoming unaffordable. 

Four years ago Eijk predicted that by 2028 there will only be 20 or 30 parishes left in the Utrecht diocese, the largest diocese in the Netherlands in terms of area. He now says that expectation was too positive. He believes that parishes will have to merge on a large scale. 

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