More than 130 churches to be transferred to new fund
In the last step taken toward the separation of church and state, Luxembourg MPs passed this week the draft law 7037 on the administration of religious buildings and other goods linked to the Catholic Church, which also leads to the creation of a single fund managing the wealth of the Catholic Church, to be administered by the archbishopric.
Of the 490 churches in the country, 134 will be transferred to the new church fund, while 356 churches will be owned by local municipalities.
"In the long term, the Catholic Church can use 234 of the 490 churches for church services," said vicar general Leo Wagener on Friday at a press conference.
"The doors to the church fund are wide open," he added, calling on both members of the current church councils and new members who "want to contribute constructively and loyally to how the Catholic Church can exist as a religious community and be organised at parish level."
Wagener also briefly discussed the internal dispute between the diocese and Syfel – the union for the 'church factories'.
"Of the 285 'church factories', 118 of them joined the lawsuit of Syfel," said the vicar general. This means that 167 'church factories' didn't want to pursue any legal action.
"That does not make the fight any less disconcerting, but that is a truth that is often hidden," he added.
The 'church factories' are old judicial structures dating back to 1809 which tied the state and the church together and were in charge of the collection and administration of the funds and revenues necessary for the construction and maintenance of the buildings and goods of the parish.
Wagener also dismissed recent rumours by pointing out that his predecessor Erny Gillen would not be a board member for the future fund.
With a transitional regime in the first phase, Wagener expects the fund to be operational from 2019, once the internal code of conduct is finalised.
Also, the permanent employees of the 'church factories' will be taken over by the fund.
After having substantially reformed relations between the state and the various religious communities over the past three years, the vicar general hopes for a "constructive and pragmatic" coexistence between the church, the state and these communities.
As announced a year ago, the fund – comprising a board of directors and 33 councils for the management of assets at parish level – will be managed on a decentralised basis, with operations and real estate projects conducted by each parish.
The 'Cellule de coordination et d'assistance' – a unit for coordination and assistance – will act as a link between the two parties and will be headed by the chairman of the board.
The volunteers who have been involved in the church councils for many years will still be able to get involved in the newly created municipal 'church factories'.
Among other responsibilities, the municipal 'church factories' will be tasked to monitor any work done on churches and other buildings belonging to the parish. Members will be in charge of carrying out inventories of furniture and other items needed to conduct masses and rituals.
The management councils will prepare the budget and take care of the day-to-day business of each of the 33 parishes. They are also resposible for implementing any instructions from the diocese and ensure donations are spent as instructed by donors.
The councils are also in charge with managing personnel and any property that is owned by the church, but not destined for religious use.
The councils will consist of representatives of the municipal 'church factories', the pastor and the chairman of the parish council 'Conseil pastoral de la paroisse'.
The board of directors
While daily business will be conducted by each parish, the board of directors, whose members are proposed by the deanery and pastoral council, will meet every three months and be in charge with the overall administration of the fund.
The budgets of each of the 33 parishes will make the total budget of the fund. The board will set out all strategic goals and ensure any decisions made by the archibishopric or taken in Rome are communicated to each of the 33 councils.
Although members of the diocese will be included in the board of directors, through the presence of the vicar general and chief economist, according to Wagener, the diocese will not interfere in the management of the fund.
The law for the creation of a single fund managing the wealth of the Catholic Church is scheduled to enter into force in April.
Translated from German by Roxana Mironescu