Built of Living Stones 178-179: The Role of the Apostolic See and the Diocesan Church

Parish communities do not operate in local isolation. It is essential to gain the consent of the local bishop, and to involve him in what the BLS calls a “discernment process.” People who work for the bishop or who serve the diocesan Church can be very helpful to the parish process, providing catechesis, spiritual guidance, and practical contacts. Communication early in the process is also important.

§ 178 § The Apostolic See has provided guidance for designing places of worship that is necessary and invaluable for the local community. In the work of constructing or renewing a place of worship, “primary authority and responsibility for the nature and quality of the church building rests with the local bishop.”(SC 124) As the Code of Canon Law states, “No church is to be built without the express written consent of the diocesan bishop. . . . after having heard the presbyteral council and the rectors of the neighboring churches.”(canon 1215 §§ 1 and 2) Therefore, the building or renovation of a place for worship is a project that belongs to the local parish and the whole diocesan Church.(GIRM 291) Care must be exercised by the pastor and parish to consult with diocesan personnel from the earliest stages of the discernment process through the completion of the work. The diocesan liturgical commission or diocesan commission on liturgy and art assists with liturgical education and the development of the liturgical and artistic components of the building’s design. Some dioceses have additional building offices or similar agencies to help parishes with the selection of architects, engineers, and building contractors, and to provide valuable information about those who have successfully served the Church in the past. In the early stages of the project, the parish needs to be in communication with the appropriate diocesan office or commission in developing the budget for the project and the financial plan, since these require the approval of the bishop and his financial advisors. This document is designed to assist diocesan bishops in developing local norms and procedures to guide parishes in church design and construction and to provide knowledgeable advisors for the local parish, especially in the complex areas of engineering and construction.

§ 179 § In some dioceses the first step in any building or renovation process is a meeting of the pastor, the architect, and possibly, the liturgical consultant with the diocesan bishop or his representative to discuss any diocesan parameters. Such early consultation can prevent confusion and unrealistic expectations or diversions later.

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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