Dutch Priest posts photos of Catholic leavers to encourage them to stay, following Pope’s anti-gay speech

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The names and photographs of parish members attempting to leave the Catholic church will be displayed by a priest in the Netherlands, in an attempt to encourage them to stay.

Priest Harm Schilder, said that he didn’t personally know everyone in his parish, and so putting up photographs of people was his attempt to urge people to stay. He said:

“This is a large parish, and I don’t known everyone: by putting up the photos I thought someone might recognise someone they know who they could try to make stay in the Church.”

“This isn’t about pointing a finger, naming and shaming,” he continued, instead saying that he intended for the community to pray for the people attempting to leave the church and to “persuade them to stay.”

Members of the church wishing to leave are required to send a letter to their priest along with a photocopy of their identity papers.

The photographs received will be displayed by Harm Schilder in the entrance hall of his church in Tilburg, in the southern Netherlands.

This news comes after, in late December, a Dutch man who runs a website containing the documents required for members of the Catholic church to “deregister” themselves, said the number of visitors went from around 10 a day to 10,000.

Tom Roes, who runs the website, admitted having no way of knowing how many people had used the site, but said: “Of course it’s not possible to be ‘de-baptised’ because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or deregister themselves as Catholics.”

The priest said he had received four requests from people wishing to leave the church over the Christmas period.

In his ‘World Day of Peace’ remarks last week, Pope Benedict XVI said: “There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union.

“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilise marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society”, the Pope told worshipers.

The Pope was also pictured giving a blessing to Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, who has promised to pass the country’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a “Christmas gift”.

Out of the population of the Netherlands, around 28% is Catholic, while roughly 44% is not religious. Reports suggest that 18% of the population is Protestant.