The Spanish Bishops’ Conference has alerted that the country’s 23,000 parishes are losing 20 million euros a month due to COVID-19.

– Pandemic affecting Church financing “in a major way”

The pandemic “is affecting in a major way” the financing of the Spanish Church, Spanish Bishops’ Conference vice-secretary for economic affairs, Fernando Giménez Barriocanal, explained in an interview May 12.

Barriocanal, who is also president of TRECE and COPE, the Spanish Bishops’ TV and radio channels, said that a third of the money received by the country’s 70 Catholic dioceses – around a billion euros in total – comes from the contributions of the faithful, with 85% of those donations coming from in-person giving at parishes.

In that scenario, “when you go nearly two months without opening the doors [of churches], you’ve got a big problem, because you’re using that money to maintain the parishes, but also to help others”, Barriocanal said.

– Bishops to keep funding TV station despite looming recession

The Spanish Bishops’ economic vice-secretary revealed that, in the face of the downturn in donations, the Spanish Church is looking at implementing solutions such as more websites for online donations or digital collection plates, so that Catholics can give by credit card without having to expose themselves to the risk of contagion by touching a common purse.

But Barriocanal said one area in which the Church is not looking to stop its investment in the short term, even despite the looming COVID-19 recession, is its television station TRECE, which the Bishops continue to finance to the tune of some 20 million euros a year even despite the channel racking up losses of some 90 million euros in ten years of operations.

“Catechesis costs money, and doing things in the Church costs money, we shouldn’t be scandalised by that”, the TRECE president insisted.

He stressed the importance of the Church having a platform to be able to broadcast major Church events like the Pope’s dramatic Urbi et orbi blessing in the midst of the worst of COVID-19.

– “The economic crisis is going to be brutal”

Even if it continues to finance TRECE, with those 20-million-euro-a-month losses to parish income the Spanish Church is staring down the barrel of a major economic collapse.

But still, Barriocanal warned that the Church’s problems will be nothing compared to those of wider society.

“We are going to live very complicated moments in our society, and people have to know that, because the economic crisis is going to be brutal”, the Spanish episcopate’s economic vice-secretary warned.

He cautioned that “we’re not aware of it yet. Right now we have a protective social shield that’s going to be difficult to maintain with public funds: the accounts aren’t going to balance. That’s where we’ll need all the solidarity Spanish society can muster and that the Church channels very well”.

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