René Maessen, the vicar general of the diocese of Roermond sent a letter to the faithful to inform them that attendance at Sunday Mass is no longer compulsory within the diocesan territory, without specifying the duration of this exemption from a commandment of the Church.
In 2016, diocesan staff emphasized the importance of the weekly celebration in each parish. In doing so, the diocese of Limburg wanted to show that the Church has not withdrawn, and wants to be present in society.
But the letter from the Vicar General today explains the reasons for this exemption. The main one being the inability of the diocese to provide Sunday Mass.
Until now, in any parish, Mass had to be celebrated every Sunday. But the shortage of priests has become such that some parishes can no longer ensure the celebration.
In addition, the scarcity of the faithful sometimes leaves a very sparse assistance and the priests are no longer sufficiently assisted by parishioners for material organizations.
The cost of building maintenance and heating are becoming heavier and heavier. The Vicar General thus admits: “Although financial reasons should never be the main item in pastoral affairs, they cannot be disregarded either.”
The diocese is still wondering if it would not be better to gather the small number of believers who are spread over different parishes into a joint Eucharistic celebration. This has been happening in other dioceses in the Netherlands for a long time.
The vicar general says parishes should make a careful assessment when celebrating Mass in a church, for example, every two weeks, and that this should be done in consultation with the diocese.
A weekly celebration may no longer be possible everywhere, but the diocese would like to stress that parishes can only make this decision if they really have no other choice.
Maessen points out that such a decision is almost always irreversible. Parishioners might see this measure as a first step towards closing a church. The diocese therefore seems to be purely and simply resigned to the collapse of its mission.