Just days before France joins eleven other European countries in adopting the euro currency, France's Roman Catholic church is scrambling to avoid a possible drop in donations. The New Year may ring in new worries for France's Catholic church. Starting January first, the euro currency will replace the French franc. And that may mean French Catholics will substitute their traditional 10 franc donations for the very similar looking one euro pieces. But while the two coins look alike, the euro is worth a third less.
To avoid that confusion, and a possible drop in revenue, church officials have launched a new drive to convince Catholics to donate two euros on Sundays, rather than one. But Betrand de Feydeau, economic director for the archdiocese of Paris, admits that making the psychological jump from one to two coins won't be easy.
"If you give ten francs be conscious that when you give a one euro coin, you will decrease your gift by 30 per cent. We try to push the people to give two euros," says Mr. Feydeau. "The difficulty is the coin of two euro is not very common."
Starting in October, Catholic parishes launched the two-euro appeal through flyers and church newsletters. Some hired Christian advertising agencies. Others relied on the local media, including Catholic radio and TV, to spread the word.
This month, the church added a new drive to collect old foreign coins and French francs, which will soon disappear from use.
France's Catholic church isn't the only one worrying about the euro. In nearby Ireland, church officials fear Sunday collections may also fall during the first months of the euro's introduction. They are also encouraging parishioners to give more.
But in France, the euro drive underscores larger financial worries. Far fewer French Catholics attend church today than a few decades ago, and donations have plummeted.
Mr. de Feydeau, of the Paris archdiocese, says priests are now being asked to speak more frankly about the church's financial needs to their congregations, and to participate in the euro drive.
But Paris priest Marc Lambert, for one, is not convinced. "I don't tell people give me two euro. I tell people give what you want to give," he says. "And I hope your heart will give more." Father Lambert presides over a small church in a working-class Paris neighborhood. He says he is not uncomfortable about soliciting donations. But given the many troubles his parishioners face, he says there are more important things to talk about than the euro.