A cushion for a lean period

Despite the economic crisis and expected revenue shortfalls, the Archdiocese of Cologne is not currently launching a new austerity program. This is what Vicar General Dominik Schwaderlapp said in an interview with Bonn's "General-Anzeiger". He said that in the years of economic recovery since 2006, the archdiocese "has been able to build up a cushion that is now helping us through the lean period".

For this year the archdiocese calculates with church tax losses at a value of 16 per cent. According to Schwaderlapp, the archdiocese's planning is based on the amption that the recession will last longer and show corresponding consequences on the job market. The focus is on the year 2010. Because one would have to ame that unemployment would rise with a time lag. However, neither the state nor the church can seriously answer the question of how much the economic crisis is costing the archdiocese. The vicar general acknowledged burdens on parishes due to declining numbers of church members and priests: "It's clear that we can't maintain the same apparatus with fewer people as we did before."Recent reforms have put a lot on the shoulders of volunteers. But he said he had the impression that many now wanted to fill the new structures with life. The congregations would now have to develop a pastoral concept containing five elements: The lively celebration of the liturgy, the proclamation of the faith, concern for youth, marriage and family, missionary awareness and charitable commitment. In the future, the parish council will have much more creative freedom than in the past. For example, a pastor would have to determine the pastoral concept together with the parish council.

Priest shortage causes concern

According to the vicar general, parish priests are to receive assistance so that they do not have to devote more than 20 percent of their working hours to administrative work. For this purpose, among other things, administrative assistants would come to the parishes on a daily basis. In addition, there are trainings for leading pastors and regular discussions with employees of the vicariate general. According to Schwaderlapp, 182 senior parish priests and more than 400 other priests will be working for pastoral care in the archdiocese in the future. This year nine and next year probably four priests will be ordained. After that, there will be a stronger ordination year again. Numbers stabilized at a low level. "This worries us," says the vicar general.

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