Empty pews in the Netherlands

Dutch Church on death’s door

“In 2030 only 45 churches will still be open in the archdiocese of Utrecht”.

That’s the stark prediction of Dutch researcher Joris Kregting, who says that the dramatic drop in Catholics in the Netherlands is bringing with it big changes for the Church in the country.

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Driving the news

As Katholiek Nieuwsblad reports, declining attendance, high parish maintenance costs and a lack of priests are wreaking havoc on Holland’s churches.

In the 1960s, more than half of the Netherland’s then-2.7 million Catholics went to Mass on a regular basis.

But by the year 2000, the number of regular Mass attendees had decreased to 439,000.

By 2017, only 157,900 people were still going to church regularly on the weekend.

That’s just 6% of all Dutch Catholics.

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The big picture

Utrecht cardinal Willem Eijk sounded the alarm last year when he claimed that by 2028 the diocese would be using only 10 or 15 of its more than 250 church properties.

“Ten per cent of the parishes are very rich, 10 per cent are essentially bankrupt. The maintenance costs for these churches are too high … Eighty per cent lie somewhere in between”, explained Eijk at the time.

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Go deeper

Researcher Kregting, of the Dutch institute KASKI, is more optimistic.

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“We cannot exactly say which churches will be closed, we don’t have an insight into the annual numbers of the different parishes”, the academic warned.

Kregting also explained that not all Dutch dioceses are closing churches at the same rate.

“Some of the dioceses have decided upon an extensive process of merging parishes, while others are looking more towards the cooperation of parishes”, the researcher pointed out.

He said in some places in the Netherlands, too – such as in the southern diocese of Roermond – churches still hold more cultural significance than in others.

“People there [in Roermond] still tend to give more money to the Church than elsewhere in the Netherlands. This can be an important factor when deciding to keep a church open for a while longer”, explained Kregting.

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