This weekend the Diocese of Salford published its plan for the future organisation of its parishes and churches.
In a statement the Diocese says: "This release followed a very successful consultation process during the latter half of 2016. The consultation saw over 2000 responses to the proposed plans. The overwhelming majority of these responses were positive, as parishioners across the diocese embraced the message of the diocese moving forward to enable its local mission."
Entitled: 'Strengthening Our Presence as Church, a Journey in Hope' , the document released by the Bishop of Salford, Rt Rev John Arnold, outlines the changes to the parishes that will be implemented over the coming months and years. The document illustrates how the diocese can be better organised to reflect the number of people regularly attending church and the number of priests in the diocese. These changes include a number of parish amalgamations and church closures.
Just over 100 parishes will be involved in amalgamations. The plan identifies the closure of 22 churches across the diocese, three of which are not currently used.
These changes have been developed for a number of reasons including to encourage parishioners to support and manage the general administration of parishes. This is intended to give priests more time to perform their pastoral duties, including the celebration of Mass, ministering to the sick, elderly and infirm and working in schools and colleges with young people.
A full list of the changes can be found at: http://www.dioceseofsalford.org.uk/
Bishop Arnold said: "This plan is a real chance to make changes that will help build, sustain and grow parishes fit for future generations. Not just for members of our Church but also for the wider community we live in.
The plan allows the Diocese of Salford to look forward, creating outward facing parishes, responding to the call from Pope Francis to develop 'missionary parishes'.
The Catholic Church plays an essential role in delivering key services across the world and we have some excellent examples of local projects and groups here in Salford. I am hopeful these changes will support these projects to continue and enable other projects to emerge.
I understand that where churches are closing this will be met with initial sadness from parishioners. But I am sure that these feelings can be overcome as our new communities come together in prayer and to welcome one another."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford covers much of Greater Manchester north of the Mersey and Lancashire round Accrington, Blackburn, Burnley and Longridge and the parish of Dunsop Bridge.
1. How many parishes will amalgamate or churches close?
Just over 100 of our current 150 parishes will be involved in amalgamations. Of these, 31 are already working with the parish(es) that it is proposed they
amalgamate with. The plan only identifies the closure of 22 churches (and 3 of them are not currently being used).
2. How soon will the amalgamation and closures happen?
This will vary. Each parish plan will be based on local circumstances. These changes will not all happen at once but over the coming months and years.
This plan is designed to create the future structure of the diocese but it will be implemented in stages appropriate to each situation.
3. Can I have a copy of the recommendations?
A printed document was made available in all churches of the diocese on the weekend of 14th/15th January.
It will be available online from Sunday 15th January at: http://www.dioceseofsalford.org.uk
4. Why does this have to happen?
The history of the diocese is one of amalgamating parishes and opening and closing churches to suit pastoral needs. These proposed changes are a continuation of the Church's response to new and emerging pastoral needs.
We need to look at how we can serve our parishes in the best way possible, taking into account changing contexts in terms of the number of priests and people regularly attending church.
The Catholic Church has an essential role to play in serving people across the region, and around the world. In these times of political, economic and social
uncertainty, we must ensure the Church continues to be missionary and outward facing, spreading the Gospel message of God's love.
5. Who drafted the document?
The document has been developed by the Bishop in conjunction with all priests serving in the diocese. The responses to the 2016 consultation were all carefully considered. There were over 2000 responses to the consultation process.
6. What will happen to churches that are closed? Will they be sold?
No final decisions on the future use of the building have yet been made. 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.
There is no intention to dispose of these buildings, unless it becomes absolutely necessary to do so. In a few cases, where the fabric is in poor condition,
demolition may be considered as a final resort and the future of the land be considered for appropriate development, such as social housing.
Source: Diocese of Salford