From problem child to model boy

The figures are astonishing: The Archdiocese of Berlin, which was in debt for more than 114 million euros a few years ago, is strictly adhering to the austerity measures it imposed at the time. At the turn of the year, bank liabilities still amounted to about 36 million euros, as Finance Director Bernd Junemann told the Catholic News Agency. From problem child, the archdiocese virtually transformed into a model boy in responsible budget management.

"Painful contributions" Without the help of the other 26 German dioceses, it would hardly have been possible. They promised the archdiocese 50 million euros in loans, 30 million of which were actually paid out. This did not happen entirely without conditions: a trustee committee made sure that the reorganization plan, which the archdiocese had drawn up with the help of a management consultancy, was adhered to. To its probably last meeting the committee in Berlin already met.The fraternal financial supervision of the other dioceses had its share in the fact that the archdiocese has now presented a budget for 2007 that is balanced without borrowing for the fourth time in a row. Junemann announced that the archdiocese will now not draw on the outstanding church loan of 20 million euros. This is likely to be very convenient for the other dioceses, many of which are now struggling with financial problems of their own to varying degrees.The archdiocese wants to be debt-free in ten years, according to its ambitious goal. This cannot be achieved without a "painful contribution" from all levels of the church, as Junemann acknowledged. Around 400 of formerly 2.700 full-time positions have already been eliminated in recent years, and several church buildings have been abandoned. After mergers, the 108 parishes in Berlin, Brandenburg and Western Pomerania are facing further drastic cuts in the next three years.

Own contribution for parishes By 2009, financial allocations from the archdiocesan ordinariate for "technical personnel" will be phased out, according to the archdiocese's latest official gazette. Personnel subsidies will then only be available for church musicians and the financial accountants of the congregations. Instead of the funds for janitors, sextons or cleaners, each congregation must then pay 2.000 euros per year for very small jobs, unless it can pay these employees from reserves or from its own income, for example from rentals.Some parishes want to compensate for the shortfall with the income from a foundation set up for this purpose, while most have to rely more on voluntary work. Berlin Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky sees the structural reforms not only as unavoidable steps toward financial reorganization, but also as pastoral opportunities for the 390.000 Catholics of the archdiocese. He called on the congregations to set priorities in their activities. The Archbishop of Berlin is sure that they could gain a higher profile by offering special church music or social services.

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