In the diocese of Amsterdam, 60% of churches are expected to close in the next five years, which represents around a hundred religious buildings. The cause, the decrease in faithful, volunteers, and income.
Amsterdam is the seat of a venerable, once prosperous diocese, whose foundation dates back to the year 1559: it extends to the province of North Holland, in the north-west of the Netherlands, as well as to a part of the province of Flevoland, and currently has 164 parishes.
Not for long, because the wave of secularization has gotten the better of the Dutch polders, and it is up to the ordinary of the place, Msgr. Jan Hendricks, to settle the dechristianization accounts.
So, the prelate brought together a few hundred parish administrators on September 10, in order to present his plan for the restructuring, or rather the rescue, of the diocese:
“It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the movement of departures that we already knew. The faithful have aged and have sometimes stopped going to church, while others have become accustomed to a different format on Sunday mornings,” the bishop admitted.
For his part, the vicar general of the diocese puts forward figures: “Sunday practice has been decreasing for several years and is not a recent development: from 25,000 in 2013, we have gone to 12,000 in 2021,” Msgr. Bart Putter specified, then adds that “in 1950, 80% of the baptized attended Sunday Mass, compared to 3% today.”
But for all that, there is no question of calling into question the direction taken by the Dutch Church since the post-conciliar period. Rather diocese seems to be moving towards an accounting solution.
Hence the decision to close 99 of the 164 Catholic churches currently open within the next five years. And that's just the beginning: of the 65 remaining churches, 37 could continue to remain open for five to ten years, after which only 28 “central churches” would be considered “viable,” i.e., self- financed.
Fr. Jan-Jaap van Peperstraten, parish priest who exercises his ministry in Alkmaar, North Holland, reacted to the Catholic press, regretting the fact that the closures would first affect practicing Catholics in the rural areas:
“How are we going to deal with the rural areas in the future? We have no answer at the moment,” he warns.
The diocese of Amsterdam is not the only Dutch diocese to face difficulties. The diocese of Roermond, in the traditional Catholic heartland of the south of the Netherlands, will ask some parishes to reduce the number of Masses due to rising energy bills and a shortage of priests.
The springtime of the Church glimpsed by Vatican II is definitely taking a long time to dawn, while it seems that winter never stops coming...