The interim head of the Church of Fabriano-Matelica has announced this Italian diocese will be merged into the diocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche.

Driving the news

The Vatican announced last Friday that the Archbishop of Camerino-San Severino Marche, Francesco Massara, had been appointed Apostolic Administrador of Fabriano-Matelica.

The appointment of Massara came after the Pope accepted in April the resignation of Stefano Russo as Bishop of Fabriano-Matelica.

Since September 2018, Russo is General Secretary of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

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The intrigue

Immediately after his appointment was made public, new apostolic administrator Massara read a prepared statement in the Camerino seminary asking for the “prayers and collaboration of all” as he begins his new assignment.

The new interim head of the diocese pleaded for “patience and good will” and said his arrival would require a search for “new rhythms of life” in the local Church.

Massara announced that the two dioceses of Fabriano-Matelica and Camerino-San Severino Marche “although under the direction of one bishop, will continue to carry out their administration separately while awaiting a different territorial configuration that will lead to a revision of boundaries”.

Go deeper

Massara’s announcement of a “different territorial configuration” and a “revision of boundaries” for the two dioceses seems to point to the cost-cutting measures for the Italian Church that Pope Francis has been planning almost since he began his papacy.

“I know that there is a commission to reduce a little the number of the dioceses… it is not easy, but there is a commission for this”, Pope Francis told the Italian Bishops in May 2013.

Under Pope Francis’ plan, the current 222 Italian dioceses would be cut by 36, with the corresponding reduction in the number of bishops in the country.

The dioceses on the chopping block are those with less than 90,000 Catholics. As is the case of that of Fabriano-Matelica, with just 56,000 Catholics.

Novena’s coverage of the Italian Church

Why it matters

Pope Francis’ thinking in cutting the number of Italian dioceses is not just to reduce costs.

Compared to the Italian Church’s more than 200 dioceses, the French Church has less than 100, while Spain has about 70.

The Pope also wants to discourage “careerism”, by which priests campaign for high-ranking positions in the Church to the detriment of their care for souls.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.