Dutch priests struggle to find home for orphaned religious objects

Churches are closing fast, leaving a glut of religious items to pass along

With two Catholic churches closing every week in the Netherlands, where parishioners are increasingly scarce, Dutch priests are struggling to figure out what to do with orphaned religious objects.

Eugene Van Deutekom, an art historian employed by the ‘s-Hertogenbosch diocese, is finding them new
homes in places where the Church is both growing and cash-strapped. He’s sent pews, a cross, a chalice and candle holders to the Dominican Republic, and plans to ship vestments to Uganda.

“Our garments are too hot for their climate,” he says, but priests there plan to take them apart and create new robes with lighter fabrics.

Latvia, Ukraine and Indonesia could also benefit.

Hundreds of Dutch Catholic churches have been demolished since the ’70s, and at least 150 others have become condos, restaurants and museums.

Van Deutekom, who cringes at the thought of gourmands downing wine next to kitschy decorations made from sacred objects, is committed to finding them a dignified home—though he doesn’t want to give the impression that “because we’re closing down, you can have a lot of crap we don’t need anymore.” Objects go to poorer dioceses, he says, “because we’re one big family.”