St Bernhard in Brandenburg, listed as a “church in popular residential area”, is the twenty-fifth church put up for sale by the Berlin diocese in the past twelve years. The church, which is now like many suffering from dwindling attendance, is starting at just €120,000 on eBay classifieds.
But although the ad says the building is open for any type of use, “be it event space, a doctor’s surgery, office space or meeting place”, church representatives said it would not go to just any buyer.
“You can’t just order a church like a pair of shoes off Zalando,” said Berlin diocese spokesman Stefan Förner. All interested buyers will have to meet with the diocese to discuss their plans for the old churches.
But far from selling like hotcakes at a fundraising cake sale, buyers are few and far between. “They aren’t exactly queuing up,” said Förner.
The main problem for buyers is habitability – the high-ceilinged rooms are a nightmare to heat, the windows are thin and the structures themselves are protected buildings.
But the German Catholic Church has no choice as congregations continue to age and fail to attract young blood. Flocks of faithful are thinning, there are fewer priests and the coffers are running dry. For many, the upkeep of a church that is barely used is proving just too expensive.
Even among self-declared Catholics, church attendance is down.
Back in the 1950s one in two German Catholics regularly attended church services. But that number has now slumped to just 12.3 percent of those who claim to be Catholic, according to recent figures by the German conference of bishops.