Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Church closures speed up

Briefing: coming to a church near you...

From CFNews: Up to half of Catholic parishes in some areas will be left without any services as a result of a radical nationwide reorganisation by dioceses.

Some of the churches already earmarked for closure have congregations of as many as 200 people, and worshippers have accused the Church of 'putting cash before Christianity'.

The most vociferous protests so far have been triggered by plans drawn up by the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, to shut down seven churches in his diocese this month as part of a large scale closure programme.

Worshippers have appealed to MPs and heritage bodies to step into the row, written to the Charity Commissioners to argue that the diocese has neglected its duties as trustees of the churches, and last week served the bishop with legal papers claiming his behaviour breaches canon law.

Some of the protesters - including women in their 80s - have even chained themselves to the church railings in protest at the closures, which they claim will devastate the communities.

The closure of churches in the Wakefield and Pontefract deanery will mean that 12 have been lost in the past year, which amounts to a tenth of the whole diocese.

Worshippers have accused the bishop of 'acting like a dictator' in failing to respond to any of their letters, which proposed solutions to the problem and expressed concern over the damage that the action would have on communities.

Dozens of them travelled to the Bishop's residence last week with letters asking them to listen to their case and sent a petition delivering a vote of no confidence in him.

Many of the protesters have attended Mass at the churches for decades and have been baptised or married there.

Maureen Walsh, who has worshipped at Holy Family church Chequerfield for 44 years, said: 'We have been shattered by this. People were crying last Sunday realising that we will no longer be able to come here.'

A Polish priest has offered to take over from the current incumbent, who is due to retire this year, to enable the church to continue, but the proposal has been rejected by the bishop.

Anne Dyer, chair of governors at Holy Family and St Michael's Primary school, said that the closure of the church will affect everyone in the area from the children to their grandparents. Pupils sent Bishop Roche letters asking him to change his mind. Mrs Dyer said that the bishop has acted 'as if he is ruling in the dark ages' in the way that he has ignored their pleas.

'This area is crying out to be supported, but we feel that he has treated us like peasants rather than listening to what we have to say,' she added.

A few miles away, at St John the Evangelist Church, in Allerton Bywater, large banners hung on the outside walls make clear the congregation's displeasure. Malcolm Brumwell accused the bishop of breaking church law in his treatment of the parish and had denied worshippers access to a traditional Mass and removing the priest without offering him a new parish.

He said that a legal challenge has been issued to Bishop Roche, which he must send to Rome for a decision. It would set a precedent for bishops' freedom to close churches if it is found that he has acted inappropriately.

A letter has been sent to the Charity Commission by Our Lady of Lourdes church in Ackworth, which has nearly 200 worshippers.

It says that the diocese 'has failed to act in the interests of the charity and its beneficiaries (the parishioners and clergy)'.

Bishop Roche has argued that congregations of less than 200 people are no longer viable and that the churches are being closed because there are not enough priests to serve the parishes. Catholic churches in north-west England are under particular pressure, with a severe shortage of priests and a sharp fall in attendances at Mass. In the diocese of Liverpool, the number of priests has almost halved in the past decade, from 240 in 1998 to 166. The diocese of Lancaster is forecast to lose half of its 108 parishes in the next 10 years, a move which would see dozens of churches closed.

Campaigners in Leeds diocese hope that their efforts will bring them a last minute reprieve, but a spokesman for the bishop said that the fate of the churches could not be changed.

'Closing these churches is the last thing that the bishop wants to do, but he had no choice,' said John Brady, the bishop's press secretary. Mr Brady said that the closures were part of a 'rolling programme' that had already seen another seven churches shut down in the last 18 months. [Sunday Telegraph] 1476.16

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Up to half of Catholic parishes in some areas will be left without any services as a result of a radical nationwide reorganisation by dioceses."

So if it is a Nationwide reorganisation then surely it has the authority of the Bishops and Cardinals? I thought you people were against disobedience and dissent, or is that only when the Church supports your agenda?

Perhaps we would be able to keep these churches open if we had more clergy and parishoners and perhaps we would win more converts if Catholics like you were more open to Ecumenalism and supported a diverse clergy?

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen