In what is seen as an historic turning point, the present six parishes in Cologne’s inner city, which themselves are already the result of earlier parish clustering, are to be re-clustered into one large “mission-area Cologne-centre” (Sendungsraum Köln-Mitte).
They will be moderated by the current vicar-general, Fr Dominik Meiering, 48, whom Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has released from his duties from 30 April onwards. The reform is part of the cardinal’s “future pastoral path” (pastoraler Zukunftsweg). According to archdiocesan spokesman Michael Kasiske, the re-cluster was necessary as three – and soon possibly four – of the present six clustered parishes no longer have a parish priest of their own.
Although only 10 per cent of the 380,000 Catholics in the Cologne deanery live in the inner city, church attendance is 26 per cent compared to only 8 per cent in the rest of the deanery. This means that almost one third of Catholics who regularly attend Mass on a Sunday go to parishes in the city centre.
The churches in the centre of Cologne, include 12 ancient Romanesque churches built between 1000 and 1200, which makes them older than Cologne Cathedral. The foundations of the Basilica of St Severin go back to a late-fourth-century memorial chapel.