Switzerland: Serious Crisis of Vocations and Faithful

Source: FSSPX News


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The lack of priests was the topic of a dossier published in Lucerne’s daily Neue Luzerner Zeitung of February 10. Out of the 100 parishes of the canton of Lucerne, only 30 have a priest to serve them. The lack of pastors is becoming increasingly acute, stated Urs Corradini, a deacon in charge of the Saint-Victor area in the diocese of Basel.

Many priests are reaching the age of retirement and theological studies draw much fewer men. Even finding lay pastoral agents in charge of parishes has become more difficult. “Not many people feel motivated any longer to undertake this type of job,” observed Urs Corradini. As a consequence, help is being sought from the outside, such as that of the Capuchin Fathers of Wesemlin. The diocese of Basel has adopted a plan of pastoral development in which parishes are incited to find collaboration on the regional level. The faithful are also invited to find a new form of happiness in the Faith: “This is fundamental to sparking vocations for the pastoral ministry,” Urs Corradini emphasized.

The secretariat of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference (CES) had already made a painful observation in a January 2005 document covering data from August 2000 onward, entitled: “Lay people appointed to the service of the Church.” In the introduction, it was recalled that “lay men and women trained in theology had been working for more than 30 years in the service of the pastoral ministry of the Church,” according to the “renewed understanding of the Church introduced at the Second Vatican Council.” However, it was specified that the variety of ministries included its share of tensions: differentiating among them toward a judicious collaboration was no easy task. “Two factors have made the situation worse: on the one hand, the crisis of the priestly ministry which has been evident since the end of the 1960’s by a growing uncertainty as to the understanding of the ministry and by a wide questioning of the celibate; and on the other hand, the increasing lack of priests made necessary the commitment of lay theologians, both men and women, precisely in domains essentially reserved to ordained ministers.

And it states: “At present, we deplore not only the lack of priests, but also the lack of parishioners; the circle of church-goers is rapidly dwindling.”

Indeed, in less than thirty years, the Catholic Church in Basel has lost half of its faithful, and consequently an important part of its revenues since parishes are entitled to levy a tax upon their faithful in most of the Swiss cantons. In 1979, the Catholic Church of Basel City numbered 68,000 members; in 2000, they were 36,7000 and at the beginning of 2008, 31,106. At the end of the year 2008, the Catholic Church numbered 30,801 members. Xaver Pfister, in charge of the information department of the Church of Basel, announced a campaign of “guerilla marketing” -- a technical term to designate advertisers with a small budget -- to incite the faithful to come back to the fold. Leaflets will be distributed by volunteers and round tables will be organized. Each of the three new pastoral units (Little Basel, Basel East, and Basel West) will be granted an annual budget. These units will decide on their own how to use this money. The Council of the Church will only examine whether some objectives are respected and whether expenses are correctly reported.

It is probable that among the 12 churches existing at present some will have to be closed down. According to the president of the Council of the Catholic Church of Basel City, Catholics will continue to keep open four or five churches. (Sources: apic/kath.ch)