Salford Diocese has announced proposals to close more than 20 churches across Greater Manchester. The restructuring plans also propose the merger of around 100 parishes in the diocese.
Initials plans for the restructuring were first revealed in November last year when a report on a consultation, commissioned by the Bishop of Salford John Arnold, was published. The report recommended parish closures due to the fact “the Catholic population has dispersed and declined” and because of the falling numbers of priests. A new document outlining details of the proposed restructuring has now been released.
Among the churches set to shut are Our Lady and St Paul in Rochdale, St Matthew in Eccles and Holy Rosary in Oldham.
Parishes earmarked for mergers include St Teresa of Avila in Irlam and St Joseph the Worker in Irlam, and St John the Evangelist in Chorlton and St Ambrose in Didsbury. (For a full list of proposed closures and mergers read the diocese’s document here).
Bishop Arnold said that the consultation “has been about stepping back to see what resources we have, what is already being achieved and how we might improve as the ‘ambassadors for Christ’ as St Paul describes us (2 Cor 5:20)”.
“Adjustment and change is required to meet the continuing needs and challenges of a changing world. I am well aware that some of the changes proposed in this document will not be welcomed by some people,” he said.
“Understandably, so many of the responses to the proposals made in June 2016 were submitted by people who were speaking from their own personal experience of membership in a single parish.”
He added: “I am truly sorry for the disappointment that will be faced by some communities and individuals but if we are to equip ourselves for the future then we must embrace change. I ask everyone to accept that this proposal is the result of the prayerful discernment of so many people and based on the wisdom, knowledge and experience of priests and people.”
The report says that from this month “implementation of the plan” will take place “at appropriate stages and with all canonically required consultation on individual proposals”.
The reports states that proposals do not mean churches “must close at once”. Rather, it says that “depending on the availability of a priest, a church identified for closure may well continue as a church for some time. But it is important that people now understand that when the present priest in such a parish moves on there will be no replacement. This allows for planning and preparation.”
According to the report, church buildings will not be sold off “unless it becomes absolutely necessary to do so.”
“Each building will be considered as an individual case and it is hoped that some use can be found for each one, with priority given to whether or not it can be used for a community purpose,” the report adds.