PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s archbishop concedes a significant number of Catholic Church closings and parish consolidations are inevitable in the not-too-distant future because of rapidly declining numbers of people in the pews.
Speaking candidly at a recent forum, largely attended by men studying to become priests at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said the future of many Catholic parishes in Philadelphia is not bright.
“We have more than 200 parishes in the archdiocese,” he said. “When we consider our count – the people who actually go to church – we need about a hundred. So if we actually did that we would have half the number of parishes that we have today.”
Chaput said the latest figures show about 18% of Catholics in the archdiocese now attend Mass on the weekend.
He said since he’s been archbishop for nearly eight years, he has closed or merged more than 70 parishes.
And while the closings and mergers have saved money, some Catholics have walked away because of their attachment to a particular church or parish.
He says the future of the church in the archdiocese is going to look different.
“I think the answer to the future are small, Christian communities, maybe ban together in what we call parishes,” Chaput said. “But nonetheless, we need small Christian communities.”
Chaput turns 75 later this month and is required to submit his resignation to Pope Francis. That letter begins the start of a search for a new archbishop.
Chaput said he will leave decisions on the future of the archdiocese to his successor.