Some 109 parishes in the German diocese of Hildesheim were amalgamated to 39 on the Feast of All Saints on 1 November. This affects 213,000 Catholics, around one-third of the Catholics in the diocese. Two years ago, 54 parishes were amalgamated to 19. The clustering is part of the diocesan reform programme and is a reaction to the shortage of priests. The church authorities see several advantages in larger parishes. Many people are more mobile now and "quite naturally" plan their lives in larger social dimensions, they say. There is a greater pool of talent in larger parishes, and greater numbers in church means more people experience the Eucharist together.

The next amalgamation is planned for 2008. By 2014 there will be only 120 parishes in the diocese compared with 348 in 2003 when the clustering began. While the number of parishioners in a parish in the Hildesheim diocese today still varies greatly and is anywhere between 2,013 and 12,780, there will then be an average of 5,000 parishioners in a parish.

German Catholics are alarmed by reports that the theology faculties at two Bavarian universities are to close. According to a report in the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the faculties at Bamberg and Passau in Bavaria, whose existence is guaranteed by the Bavarian Concordat with the Vatican, are to be "left to rest" for 15 years. The deans of the faculties at the universities both said they were surprised by the news, because the number of candidates studying theology to become RE teachers had increased sharply recently.

The Tablet