Strapped for funds and faced with church closures, Catholics in Lower Saxony have appealed to Lutherans to share churches. It wouldn't be the first time two of Germany's Christian churches share houses of worship.
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The Catholic Diocese of Hildesheim in the northern state of Lower Saxony on Monday, Jan. 21, asked the Lutherans in the state for permission to hold religious services in their facilities.
The diocese, one of 27 in Germany, said it planned to close 80 of its 438 churches due to a budget crunch. It will also require local communities to pay for the upkeep of dozens more.
Arend de Vries, a senior official in Lower Saxony's Protestant Church said he was open to the idea but would wait for an official request from the diocese before making the Catholics an offer.
Both the Protestant and Catholic state churches can claim 26 million members each nationwide, who support them with a state-imposed church tax. However, attendance and membership have sunk recently.
Only 14 percent of Catholics attend mass on any given Sunday and only 264 men volunteered to become priests last year, Germany's DPA news agency reported.
Many of the country's churches, however, are historical landmarks and moves to close under-used houses of worship have come up against protests.
If the Lutherans in Lower Saxony agree to share worship space with local Catholics, it wouldn't be a first. De Vries recalled that the two denominations held services in the same facilities after many churches were destroyed in World War Two.