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Lottery funding has helped revive a famous Merseyside church

The daughters of Asia Bibi (CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters)

Seven years ago, Ss Peter, Paul and St Philomena’s Church was closed, leaking and full of rubbish. Today, it is looked after by a traditional order of priests – young and enthusiastic, with three in residence – two-thirds of the roof has been restored, and the community is only getting younger.

Bishop Mark Davies’s vision was for a Shrine Church for the whole diocese, based on the traditional Mass and daily Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He entrusted this vision to the Institute of Christ the King.

The church, in New Brighton, Merseyside, is famous for its pale-green dome. Sailors nicknamed it “The Dome of Home” during the Second World War because it was a landmark that told them home was near. The name has stuck. But until recently the church was in poor shape. That has been changing slowly, thanks to three successful restoration projects supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with match-funding from National Churches Trust, Latin Mass Society and Wirral Borough Council.

And now we’re currently recruiting staff to manage and develop a new (fourth) HLF Heritage Grant project. (Email newbrighton@icrsp.org if you’re interested in applying.)

Canon Amaury Montjean, rector of the shrine, explains: “We had to demonstrate professionalism with achievable, clear outcomes. It was not easy…and as Catholics, we must aim for a spiritual goal as well.”

The church is open to the public daily. We’ve developed a tour and guide book, and now an audio tour. Visitors are encouraged to put on a 1940s hat and step back in time to find out how this church and faith helped the community during World War II. You can listen by logging on to the church’s wi-fi and scanning the QR code on your smartphone.

Schools, and not just Catholic ones, bring classes here to learn about the church. Young visitors love our Very Big Book for children which asks, “What is a Christian?”, “Why is there an altar?” and “Who can offer sacrifices?”

Canon Montjean offers another suggestion: “Once daily Adoration had been established, everything else seemed to fall into place.”