Thousands of people have signed a petition protesting against a proposal to turn a Catholic chapel in a hospital in Manchester into a Muslim prayer room.
The chapel of St Raphael has been serving Catholics at North Manchester General Hospital for 15 years.
The Catholic chaplaincy at the hospital sent a letter to Catholic parishes last weekend, saying: “We write to inform you of a proposal by the spiritual care chaplaincy Team at North Manchester General Hospital to close the Roman Catholic Chapel of St Raphael in order to convert it into a Muslim prayer room.
“Worship spaces are going to be provided for Muslims, Jews, and Protestant Christians, and even a ‘Quiet Room’ for people of no faith at all. Yet it is proposed that Catholics should have no space of their own.
“St Raphael’s chapel contains the Blessed Sacrament and Mass is celebrated weekly. It is well used and highly valued by patients, staff and visitors at the hospital.”
The petition, targeted at the board of the Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust, has so far been signed by nearly 5,000 people.
The Rev John Hall, chaplaincy co-ordinator at the trust, said they had “no plans to close any facilities” but that they were “currently looking at how these [chapels and rooms] are used so that we have the best possible arrangements that meet everyone’s needs”.
“We are about to start consultation with the local community, faith groups and relevant staff members to discuss all our current issues and to listen to all views and opinions,” he said.
Manchester councillor Pat Karney told Manchester Evening News: “I am very disturbed to hear of these plans. Thousands of Catholic families in north Manchester including my own have used this mini chapel. I will be meeting with the hospital bosses to clarify their intentions.”