News in brief.
Up to 368 English churches could be closed. There has been a steady decline in the number of churches in England – between 1969 and 2021 the Church of England closed 2,013 churches. But the pace of church closures is increasing as regular church attendance has been declining. A recent report by the Church of England’s Church Commissioners identified between 131 and 368 churches as being at risk of closure in the next five years. Covid is likely to have made closures more likely as church attendance and therefore monetary giving has taken even more of a downward turn during the last two years, whilst the costs of maintaining buildings have continued to place a financial burden on churches.
French bishop’s palace sale for compensation to abuse survivors. The bishop of Créteil, who is also vice-president of the Conference of Bishops of France, has announced that he will put his residence up for sale so that the proceeds can be given to the fund set up to support and compensate survivors of abuse by the Catholic church in France. The bishop will move to a more modest apartment building in the area in September 2022.
Nuns donate cloister to house people in need in Brussels. Nuns from the Sisters of the Visitation order in Kraainem, Brussels have received the official go-ahead from the Vatican to sell their cloister to a charity that intends to use the site to develop housing for vulnerable people, and use the land for sustainable farming. The proceeds from the sale of the cloister will be used to care for the nuns through their old age.
Spotlight on Rovaniemi.
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland in Finland, famous for the Northern Lights… and for being the home of Santa Claus. There are around a dozen chapels and congregational halls in the Evangelical Lutheran parish of Rovaniemi. These are all modern buildings, mostly built in the 1950s and 1960s because Rovaniemi was almost entirely destroyed during WWII. And there is one main church which can accommodate around 800 people. Rovaniemi Church was built in 1950, partly with donations from church congregations in Sweden and the US.
The church was designed by Bertel Liljeqvist, a Finnish architect who drew inspiration from mediaeval church design. The interior of the church contains a large altar mural by Lennart Segerstråle, and paintings and stained glass by Antti Salmenlinnan. In it, traditional church motives have been given a local Finnish feel – sheep from the bible have become reindeer, and the pelican feeding its young, which is commonly seen in European churches, becomes a Lapland swan.
Saint of the week: Peter Canisius.
On 21 December, the Roman Catholic church remembers Saint Peter Canisius, whose life, like many saints, reflects the interconnectedness of church life in Europe over the centuries. Born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands in the sixteenth century, he studied in Cologne then joined the newly formed Jesuit Society. He became famous as a preacher and writer in Germany, and he is believed to have been influential in returning to Catholicism some parts of Europe, such as Bavaria, Hungary and Poland, which were becoming increasingly Protestant.
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Picture credits. Photo of Rovaniemi by Maria Vojtovicova | Canisius, Petrus – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek – Austrian National Library, Austria | graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.