01 February 2018
Indebted Hamburg regrets having to close schools
A German church leader has apologised to local parishioners after announcing plans to close eight of his diocese’s 21 Catholic schools in an attempt to pay off a debts of 79 million euros.
“I know there are many feelings of injury, disappointment and anger, that many tears have flowed in the last few days – and it also hurts me and touches my heart,” said Archbishop Stefan Hesse of Hamburg. “We carry a heavy burden, which has come down to us from the past, and which we know more about now than before. There have been mistakes, and we now have to tackle them bravely.”
The archbishop spoke at Mass last Sunday as parents staged protests outside Hamburg’s Mariendom cathedral. He said he had been unaware of the 400,000-member diocese’s huge debts when he took over in 2015, adding that three diocesan schools might still be saved.
The planned closures are the latest to affect the Church in Germany, where Catholics, spread over 11,000 parishes, make up 30 per cent of the population of 82.6 million. Other dioceses, including Berlin, Trier and Essen, have closed or merged parishes and laid off staff to cope with rising debts and reduced participation.
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