The 660 parishes in the Archdiocese of Vienna are to be drastically reduced over the next 10 years to just 150.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, made the announcement to a startled audience of journalists at the annual media reception at the archbishops' palace on 20 September.
The main factors behind the restructuring are the declining number of churchgoing Catholics and the shortage of priests. Parishes in the archdiocese will in future be much larger, with three to five priests in charge, one of whom will be responsible to the archbishop. Each of these large parishes will be run jointly by priests and lay Catholics.
Cardinal Schönborn described the move as "probably the greatest structural reorganisation of the Vienna archdiocese for 200 years".
Above: Ian Elliott, CEO of the Irish Church's safeguarding board