OXFORD, England (CNS) — The Berlin Archdiocese is continuing to try to sell unused churches and even listed a church on eBay.
“Virtually every diocese in Germany has sold churches over the past decade, so this is nothing special,” said Stefan Forner, spokesman for the Berlin Archdiocese.
“The parish in question was helped by professionals, who advertised it online so it appeared on eBay, but this doesn’t mean it’s being auctioned off cheaply,” he added.
After it did not sell on eBay, efforts continued to find a buyer for St. Bernhard Church in Brandenburg-Havel, one of numerous churches recently put on the market in the face of falling Mass attendance.
Forner told Catholic News Service March 28 that 22 Catholic churches had been sold or given to other Christian denominations by the Berlin Archdiocese, compared to 90 in the Diocese of Essen.
However, he added that some Berlin churches had already been converted into residential buildings and were subject to restrictions barring commercial use.
“We’re not talking about churches like St. Peter’s Basilica or Cologne cathedral,” Forner said.
“While no one wants to sell off churches, parishes sometimes have to when there aren’t enough people using them regularly. But the diocese has to agree, as well as approving their buyer, price and planned use,” he added.
He said St. Bernhard Church, one of four in the Brandenburg parish, attracted just a dozen Catholics for its one Sunday Mass.
“We simply can’t afford such churches anymore — and it’s legitimate to seek the best method to sell them,” he said. “Though most people aren’t interested in churches, they react indignantly whenever we announce we’re selling them. But we can expect this process to continue for some time yet.”
The Berlin Archdiocese includes parts of the eastern states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, although 80 percent of its more than 390,000 registered Catholics live in the German capital.
In a Dec. 2 pastoral, Cardinal Rainer Woelki announced plans to merge the 105 local parishes into larger “pastoral areas” and pool their resources.
In a special “property page,” the archdiocese website said St. Bernhard’s Church and parish hall, built in the mid-1930s, were offered for 130,000 euros ($167,000) with 952 square meters (190 square yards) of land.
The website is currently advertising St. Maria Goretti Chapel in a “quiet suburban location” in Loitz for 20,000 euros.