The Pope: if necessary, the Church goods are to be sold to help the poor
Message to the conference on the decommissioning of unused places of worship: “Change should not be welcomed with anxiety but as a sign of the times that requires us to adapt.
“Following the thought of the ecclesial Magisterium”, one can elaborate “almost a theological discourse on cultural goods, considering that they have a part in the sacred liturgy, in evangelization and in the exercise of charity”, the Pontiff writes in the message read by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi at the opening of the conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, in collaboration with the Italian Episcopal Conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
The “common sense of the faithful”, first of all, “perceives for the environments and objects destined for worship, the permanence of a sort of imprint that does not end even after they have lost that destination” Francis says. Moreover, “ecclesiastical cultural goods are witnesses of the faith of the community that has produced them over the centuries, and for this reason, they are in their own way instruments of evangelization that are alongside the ordinary instruments of proclamation, preaching and catechesis” with an “original eloquence” that “can be preserved even when they are no longer used in the ordinary life of the people of God, especially through a proper exhibition in museums, which not only consider them documents of art history, but give them almost a new life, so that they can continue to carry out an ecclesial mission”.
The cultural heritage “is aimed at the charitable activities carried out by the ecclesial community,” the Pope continued, who stressed the traditional iconography that represents the Roman martyr Lorenzo in the act of selling some precious ritual furnishings and distribute the proceeds to the poor: “This - the Pope said - constitutes a constant ecclesial teaching which, while inculcating the duty of protection and conservation of the Church’s goods, and in particular of cultural goods, declares that they do not have an absolute value, but in case of need they must serve the greater good of the human being and especially in the service of the poor. Your conference is now well placed, therefore. The observation that many churches, needed until a few years ago, are no longer necessary, because of a lack of faithful and clergy, or because of a different distribution of the population in cities and rural areas - Jorge Mario Bergoglio stressed - should be welcomed into the Church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the times that invites us to reflect and requires us to adapt”.
“This reflection, started some time ago on the technical level in the academic and professional sphere, has already been addressed by some episcopates”, the Pope adds. “The conference will certainly give suggestions and indicate lines of action, but the concrete and final choices will be up to the bishops. To them I strongly recommend that every decision be the result of a choral reflection conducted within the Christian community and in dialogue with the civil community. Decommissioning must not be the first and only solution to think about - the Argentinean Pontiff underlines - nor must it ever be carried out with scandal on the part of the faithful”.
“If necessary, it should be included in the ordinary pastoral planning in good time, be preceded by adequate information and be as shared as possible”, Francis writes, who concludes by explaining that “even the building up of a church or her new destination cannot be dealt only from a technical or economic point of view, but must be evaluated according to the spirit of prophecy: through it, in fact, passes the witness of the faith of the Church, which welcomes and values the presence of its Lord in history”.