By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Amid concern that charitable and church collections could be hit by the changeover to the euro, the diocese of Ferns, Co. Wexford, has become the first to issue a brochure on the new currency to parishioners.
It explains the changeover could damage a variety of collections that bring in about _1.5 million (1.9 million euros) a year.
Ireland is the only EU country in which the euro will be worth less than the existing basic unit of currency, with 79 cent to the punt.
There is concern that if people simply switch from donating a punt coin to giving a euro coin in collections it will mean a 21 percent drop in income.
“The brochure explains the changeover will require a certain amount of management so that there is no loss,” said a Ferns spokesman, Fr. John Carroll.
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About 80 percent of the money collected stays in Ferns’ 40 parishes and 90 churches, representing 96,000 parishioners, and the rest goes to central funds or is distributed to causes like charities or agencies to help emigrants.
“Things are already run on a shoestring,” Carroll said. “Sometimes one punt in the church can achieve what it takes maybe five punts from the state because there is so much voluntary labor and goodwill involved.”
The possibility of falling incomes has been discussed by bishops in the country’s 27 dioceses. But Ferns is the first to take an initiative with its own campaign.
“Rather than saying to people you convert four punts to five euros we decided to go for a different approach — to communicate everything and explain what the collections are used for.”
Carroll said a big drop in income was not a major fear.
“Maybe it is complacency, but the people have always been there and they have never been found wanting.”
Bishop Brendan Comiskey says that money is only one expression of belief in the church.
“Over the years, it has become increasingly obvious to me that one area that poses priests immense difficulty is the area of money,” Comiskey said. “It is an area that most shy away from publicly addressing.
“Some readily acknowledge their lack of skill in the area, while almost all will tell you privately that they find the whole issue embarrassing, and I suspect, though it is not said, diminishing.”