Small churches in rural Ireland may have to close as depopulation and the devastating effects of Covid will lead to many being unsustainable, according to the Bishop of Killaloe.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Bishop Fintan Monahan said: “With the declining number of people that are living in rural areas, rural depopulation – it’s a two-tier system in so many ways – you just wonder how small rural churches will be able to be sustained.
“Certainly, with the decline of the number of priests on top of that and the decline then further of people attending, there’s going to be a completely different reality in the very short term when we get back, so trying to alert people to it and trying to get the individual pastoral areas to look at it and plan and see if it’s possible to keep their churches open literally; what sort of life will be in them?”
Across Ireland, church collections this year are down by about half meaning there will have to be a process of rationalising, according to the bishop, saying: “If the income is down by about 50%, as it is now, whether that will come back I don’t know. If a church isn’t able to sustain itself serious questions will be asked. Some of the really tiny churches; I wonder if they will reopen at all after Covid, I just don’t know.”
“Maybe things will swing back to normality, my hunch is probably not, it will probably take a big jump in the negative side.”
“You’d always try and make a priority of ensuring that rural areas would be serviced but there’s a limit to how you can do that in terms of resources that you have, they’re constantly declining,” he said.
He added that despite the stark realities, “the shameful thing is that rural communities do have a quality that is really outstanding which you don’t get in the impersonalised urban environment where the sense of community isn’t as strong, the sense of Church, the sense of being together, looking out for each other, you wouldn’t have that”.
Read more here – Rural Church communities face stark choices