After 50 Years of Liberal Church Management: 36 of 110 Churches of Brussels Will be Closed
springtime auto-demolition of Vatican II comes to the primatial see of Belgium]
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
(Brussels) In Brussels, capital of Belgium, 36 out of 110 Catholic churches will soon be closed and sold. The change in Archbishop also brought a change of direction back to “structural reforms” instead of spiritual renewal. It is the sad result of a homemade, progressive decline.
Brussels is also the headquarters of the European Union. The leftist city government majority in the municipal council consists of one third Muslims. These are two aspects that provide explanations for this unprecedented decline. Another key aspect is the decades-long line of liberal archbishops in the Archdiocese.
Cardinal Danneel’s restructuring plans
Yet in 2010 there was a turning point: Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard tried as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, certainly with recognizable success, to revive by the establishment and promotion of a small but faithful group in some churches that had been devastated for decades by his predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Archbishop 1980-2010, Cardinal since 1983) which were already threatened of being put up for sale. Léonard’s term of only five years, however, was too short. In addition, this churchman who fought in Europe’s front line, received neither the necessary encouragement nor the necessary support.
Although Brussels has traditionally been linked to the dignity of cardinal, he was not granted it by Benedict XVI. not out of a false consideration for Danneels who was not yet 80 years old. Pope Francis did not even think to dream of it, to give a “Ratzingerian” like Léonard, the declared object of hatred of Francis-friend Danneels, the purple dignity. So Léonard’s days were numbered.
On November 6, 2015, he was retired by Francis. With Jozef De Kesel, a Danneels man was named as the new archbishop, who quickly moved away from Léonard’s restoration efforts and returned to the closure and sale policy of Danneels. Houses of worship would be sold off for little money. According to the plans of Archbishop De Kesel, newly established in his post on December 12, 2015 soon, there would be 36 of 110 churches closed in the “capital” of Europe. There has been no comparable action by the Church in all of its History in a European capital.
Archbishop De Kesel made his plans known in 2005
The daily newspaper La Libre published the plans with two articles. This did not only disturb the peace of Belgian Catholics. The question touches on other places of European catholicity in addition to Belgium, which are in the post-conciliar decline.
The third Christian millennium began with Cardinal Danneel’s “restructuring plans”. The conveyance and merging of parishes were central keywords that were given concrete shape from 2005 onwards. Jozef De Kesel was then Episcopal Vicar for the Vicariate Brussels, one of the three vicariates of the Archdiocese. It was De Kesel who announced the plans for the “future” of parishes in 2005. They were based on two considerations: as the number of Catholics decline, the number of parishes was greater than the demand, and especially greater than the funds; in addition, the high number of parishes of our Church does not fit the “multireligious and multicultural” dimension “of our modern society.” It’s a common choice of words to disguise Islamization. In Brussels there are more practicing Muslims than Catholics. The first name Mohammed has lead for several years on the list of newborn boys. Yet the theme of Islamization is politically undesirable among the dominant forces and must therefore must not be addressed. The same applies to the disintegration of the Catholic community through immigration into many small, independent, ethnic communities. Even immigration coming from Catholic sources has brought fragmentation rather than unity.
The Kingdom of Belgium is a historical artifact in a linguistic-cultural space in transition. Since Germany, the Netherlands and France have territorial claims on the region, the great powers created it in 1830 from the former Austrian-Netherlands into a separate state in order not to disturb the balance of power. The inner layer is linguistically therefore, somewhat more complex than in other European countries, and this includes Church organization.
In the area of Brussels, there are 107 parishes which employ 250 priests. 11 pastoral units are Dutch-speaking (Flemish), 25 pastoral units are French (Walloons). Plus, there are 42 different foreign-language communities. All of these parishes, units and communities are summarized in four deaneries. According to information of the weekly magazine Tempi 36 pastoral parish units will be dissolved and at least one church be closed.
This does not mean that all churches are to be profaned immediately. But it is to say that all church activities such as baptisms, first communions, confirmations, catecheses are discontinued. The profanation and the sale are the next step. The first article of Le Libre last March 22 was like a shock to the faithful.
Churches as an object of speculation?
Some parishes are hard to keep. There is a lack of faithful and the funds are scarce among Brussels Catholics. The radical deforestation leaves the faithful in fear that even vibrant parishes could fall under the bureaucrat’s wheels when their churches located in “interesting” parts of the city are set aside for real estate speculation. Among the seven criteria for the conveyance of parishes is the term “urban projects.”
Above all, the faithful do not understand why parishes are to be dissolved, although there are enough priests to look after them.
The pastor of a small parish that is to be abandoned, asked not to close the church, but to leave it to the Polish community which still lacks their own church. The proposal was rejected.
According to La Libre there is no definite decision which parishes are to be closed. In the near future a meeting between a group of concerned Catholics and the reigning Episcopal Vicar for Brussels, Jean Kockerols, is to take place.
New Archbishop De Kesel has Introduced His Closure Plan Again
The big “remodeling” of the Catholic Church in Brussels, which had been put in the drawer by Archbishop Léonard, had once again been put on the table as soon as De Kesel took over the office as Archbishop. De Kesel announced the “reconstruction” in his pastoral letter of 2005. Cardinal Danneels wanted De Kesel to be installed as his successor in 2010. That was rejected by Benedict XVI. who gave the assignment to Léonard, the then Bishop of Namur, with the attempt to at revival. With the election of Pope Francis, however, in which Cardinal Danneels as a member of Team Bergoglio and the secret circle Sankt Gallen is again operational, the chapter of Léonard and Benedict XVI. for the Belgian church came to an end faster than expected.
Soon numerous Brussels churches are being offered on the real estate market for sale. It’s a sad highlight in the decline of the self-adulating conciliar Church which says there is “no alternative.” .