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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Vatican conference to explore use of deconsecrated churches

The Vatican is helping organise an international conference meant to help dioceses work with their local communities in finding appropriate uses for decommissioned churches.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, together with Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and the Italian bishops’ conference, will sponsor the gathering, titled ‘Doesn’t God Dwell Here Anymore? Decommissioning Places of Worship and Integrated Management of Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage,’ from 29th to 30th November in Rome.

In the run-up to the conference, the public is invited to photograph and post on Instagram examples of deconsecrated churches being reused in a positive way, since examples of churches turned into night clubs and gyms garner the bulk of media attention.

The photographs, to be tagged with #NoLongerChurches, #unigre and a hashtag of the name of the church and city, are meant to showcase positive ways the historical, social, artistic and sacred significance of such buildings can be maintained or highlighted.

Photographs must be posted between 10th July and 15th October, and selected winners will have their images displayed at the international conference and published on the sponsors’ websites and in Italian magazines dedicated to Christian art, the Church and architecture.

Picture: Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel poses in 2015 for a picture at the decommissioned Santa Barbara church, where a skatepark was installed, in Oviedo, Spain. It is just one example of the problem of abandoned or sold places of worship being reused in inappropriate ways. The Vatican is organising a conference in November to help the church avoid those problems and make sure deconsecrated, repurposed churches do not lose their important spiritual, historical and cultural value. (CNS photo/J.L. Cereijido, EPA).