Switzerland: The health crisis has limited church collections

A poll by courier pastoralthe Newsletter of the Diocese of Geneva, revealed that the suspension of masses for several months and the limitation of the number of faithful at the celebrations due to health measures had severely damaged the finances of several municipalities in the canton of Geneva.

Unlike most other Swiss cantons, Geneva’s municipalities do not benefit from a mandatory church tax and rely on collection income to ensure a 20% to 50% stake in their operations.

In 2020, all surveyed communities saw a drop in survey revenue of between 40% and 60%. In addition, the postponement of many weddings or baptisms, which often bring together large and lavish gatherings, has resulted in a deficit of between 20% and 80%.

A slight improvement was felt in the first half of 2021, with two communities returning to pre-pandemic levels. Less than 15% of communities experience a drop in revenue of more than 50%. At the half, the decline is between 30% and 50%, and in the most recent quarter, it’s 20%.

If the collection allows them to cover their operating costs, more and more parishes have diversified their sources of income (investments, real estate projects, etc.). But in Geneva, other sources of income such as room rentals, trade fairs, concerts and other events have been hit hard by the health crisis.

In this particular context, traditional calls for donations to parishioners have often generated a more generous response than the average of the pre-Covid years, but few of the exceptional donations are reported in the Courrier Pastoral survey.

Diocesan collections for the benefit of foundations, associations and institutions such as Caritas, Missio or the University of Freiburg are not spared. Results rose from 994,000 Swiss francs in 2019 to 597,000 in 2020, with a tentative recovery in 2021, the diocese said.

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