Apostolic Visitor calls for Oratory 'to be allowed to continue its work without hindrance'

One of the three men removed from the Birmingham Oratory in May is to be sent to South Africa, it was announced today.

Fr Felix Selden, Apostolic Visitor of the Holy See for the worldwide Confederation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, said in a statement that Brother Lewis Berry will be sent to the Oratory in Port Elizabeth in South Africa for “a period of at least one year”, starting in the first week of September.

He added that the decision was made “after consulting with the Fathers, and taking into account Brother Lewis Berry’s own views”.

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The reason given is that Brother Lewis’s formation “will best be met in an Oratorian community that will afford him greater opportunities for a varied programme of pastoral work, as the Church requires of a deacon”.

Brother Lewis is one of the so-called “Birmingham Three”, along with Fr Philip Cleevely and Fr Dermot Fenlon. Parishioners at the Birmingham Oratory and others have sharply criticised the decision to remove them following an apostolic visit led by Fr Selden.

Fr Selden added that Brother Lewis “has welcomed the opportunity” and is “now preparing for this next stage of his formation”.

Fr Selden also requested “that the Oratorian community in Birmingham be allowed to continue its work without hindrance”, insisting that the visitation to the Oratory had been “chiefly concerned with the Community’s own internal life and discipline.”

The Port Elizabeth Oratory was established in 2008, and Brother Lewis will be joining a community of seven priests and two brothers. In addition to the parish of St Bernadette, the Oratory also runs a “collegium”, offering a propaedeutic year for those considering the priesthood.

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