Churches across Europe are struggling to accommodate worshippers as well as tourists, as the number of visitors has significantly increased this year.
While in the last couple of years, the number of worshippers and visitors was not as high as during the pre-pandemic period, data has shown that the case is not the same this year as more people than ever are visiting churches during their trips outside the country.
As the Times Free Press explains, Barcelona is one of the cities that has been registering a record number of visitors this year, surpassing the pre-pandemic volumes.
Due to the high number of visitors, it has been stressed that the city is struggling to accommodate those who come to pray, as well as millions of visitors who often are interested in the architecture.
Other cities in southern Europe are also dealing with the same issue, with them registering millions of visitors too.
Commenting on the current situation, the Rector of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Josep Maria Turull, said that they are “working to get ahead of this so that we do not get to collapse,” suggesting that the authorities are planning to take measures to address the issue.
According to the Times Free Press, one of the strategies that are being followed by churches to deal with the high number of worshippers and tourist is to separate these two groups. Some churches are holding services in discrete places, are not allowing visits at worship times, and are keeping different entry queues.
The same explains that this spring, the Vatican opened a separate pathway for those who want to enter to attend Mass or pray.
Such a move was made in order not to discourage worshippers as sometimes there are long waiting lines, with an average of 55,000 daily visitors, the spokesperson of Basilica, Roberta Leone, said.
Daniel Olsen, who is a Brigham Young University professor, also commented on the matter. Olsen said that it is hard to impose rules as “you want people to experience faith”. The same stressed that churches are one of the largest segments of the tourism market, with around 330 million people visiting religious sites yearly all over the world.
The Rector of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, José Fernández Lago, said that they were also experiencing an increase in the number of visitors and stressed that “some people go to the cathedral, and they don’t realise they’re in a church.”
The same notes that in order to preserve its role, the cathedral does not charge for entry but highlights that visits are not allowed during the four daily Masses.