08 September 2022, The Tablet

Heating costs bring new Mass curbs to Netherlands

Heating costs bring new Mass curbs to Netherlands

Roermond /Netherlands – file photo of Catholic church with one person praying.
Uliana Shevchenko / Alamy

Rising heating bills have joined a growing priest shortage to prompt a diocese in the southern Netherlands to end regular Sunday Mass in some smaller parishes and urge the faithful to regroup in larger shared congregations.

Vicar general Mgr Rene´ Maessen said the dwindling number of priests was the main reason Roermond diocese has decided it cannot offer Mass every weekend in all its 287 parishes.

Some churches also have such small congregations and so few volunteer helpers that holding Mass is increasingly difficult.

“Finances – including heating costs – should of course never be a main item in pastoral matters, but can’t be left unconsidered, either,” he added.

“If you only have a handful of people, each donating a euro, that’s not enough to cover the heating bill,” diocesan spokesman Matheu Bemelmans told Reuters.

“If there are churches with only a few visitors, we are saying: be practical and skip a week and ensure those people can follow Mass at another church.”

Energy prices have shot up across Europe because of the Ukraine war and cuts in Russian natural gas deliveries, reaching almost 100 per cent in the Netherlands last month.

The Netherlands, which boasts Europe’s largest natural gas field in Groningen province, is heavily dependent on the fuel for heating.

But a series of damaging earthquakes in the north convinced the Dutch government in 2019 to phase out extraction. Some Dutch people now question that, but a full stop is still planned in a few years.

Roermond diocese said that Mass would still be offered every Sunday in some nearby church where a priest can be assured and congregations made larger.

“For the priest as well as the parishioners – or, for example, the choir – it is much more motivating to join a larger group of believers in another church,” Mgr Maessen argued.

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