Barcelona: Parishes Are Being Drastically Reduced

June 01, 2021
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella

The Archdiocese of Barcelona, Spain, has just announced the closure of 160 parishes out of the 208 existing. The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic has dealt a fatal blow to the finances of a diocese long affected by the tsunami of secularization.

A hard awakening for the Catholics of Barcelona: the archbishop, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, has just announced a drastic plan to reduce the number of parishes.

One hundred and sixty parishes out of the 208 in the ecclesiastical district will have to close their doors: a measure which will take effect gradually, once the titular pastor has reached the legal retirement age, fixed by canon law at seventy-five.

As for the 48 remaining parishes, they will be renamed “pastoral communities” and will concentrate all the activities carried out within the previous structures, whose buildings, and where necessary the churches, could be put up for sale.

Thus, the archdiocese has already ceded land belonging to the parish of St. Isidore to the nearby hospital: several thousand square meters of land and buildings with which the healthcare establishment can expand.

In Catalonia, as elsewhere in Spain, the breath of renewal that Vatican II was supposed to inspire was not enough to stem the secularization movement that had been operating in the kingdom for several decades, and has increased in recent years.

Barcelona has the sad privilege of being the region where Catholicism has faded the most on the peninsula: 56.6% of the inhabitants declare themselves Catholic, of which 20% are practicing.

The autonomous region of Catalonia is also the one with the fewest baptisms, communions, and marriages, or priestly vocations. Even the share of the contribution going to the Church is at its lowest.

The income tax declaration indeed conceals a particularism inherited from history: when they fill out their tax forms, Spanish taxpayers can tick a box allowing 0.7% of their taxes to go to social solidarity, or to the Catholic Church.

However, in all of Spain, it is in Catalonia that the “Church” box is the least often checked on the income tax return.

Note: It should be noted that this tax is compulsory. Those who do not tick either of the two boxes will see the sum corresponding to 0.7%, allocated and to social solidarity, and to the Church, according to the proportion of those who ticked a box. Thus, in 2020, nearly 30% of taxpayers checked the Church box. We must therefore add 30% of those who did not check anything.

Finally, it should be noted that, for the year 2020, this tax has increased dramatically, probably due to the Church's aid to the poor. Indeed, the total amount increased by 5.9% compared to 2019. But the situation is likely to deteriorate in 2021 because of the effects of the health crisis.