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Priestly order considers taking over landmark Wirral church

By on Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mgr Michael Schmitz carries a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament during a procession to conclude Forty Hours devotion at the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Mgr Michael Schmitz carries a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament during a procession to conclude Forty Hours devotion at the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury may hand over a landmark church on the Wirral to an order which celebrates Mass exclusively in the Extraordinary Form.

The bishop has entered “exploratory negotiations” with the Institute of Christ the King about establishing a community of priests at Ss Peter and Paul, New Brighton.

The aim is to re-open the church, which was closed almost three years ago, and turn it into a centre for Eucharistic adoration.

If the negotiations are successful it will be the first church in Britain to be run by the Institute of Christ the King. At present the Institute sends priests from Belgium to celebrate Sunday Mass in four English dioceses.

After Easter Mgr Gilles Wach, the French founder and superior general of the Institute, will visit the church in New Brighton and hold direct talks with the bishop.

The institute would hope to raise money for restoring the enormous Grade-II listed church by seeking support from local Catholics.

The bishop has signalled that a diocesan priest may be made available to provide Mass in the Ordinary Form if necessary. Bishop Davies said he welcomed the institute’s interest in the church and was looking forward to “exploring the practicalities”.

Canon William Hudson, a spokesman for the institute, said that it was a “very serious proposition” and was in the process of being discussed.

He said: “While there are a number of issues that need to be addressed – notably financial – we are sure that the faithful will be just as generous as when the church was built. Our order has considerable experience in re-opening churches in very similar circumstances to Ss Peter and Paul. I am confident that, with the guidance of the bishop, a solution can be found to the benefit of the Catholic community at large.”

Bishop Davies partially re-opened this month after years of campaigning by parishioners. Masses are now being celebrated in a side chapel every Friday.

In 2009 the Vatican said that the previous bishop, Bishop Brian Noble, had failed to fulfil the obligations of Canon Law in closing the church. But it withdrew the ruling after being assured that the parish’s move to a nearby Anglican parish was only temporary.

Bishop Davies was first approached by the Institute of Christ the King last year after being installed as bishop in October.

The proposal to establish a community at Ss Peter and Paul was welcomed by the Latin Mass Society, which said it would renew the Church in Shrewsbury and benefit all Catholics in the area.

Dr Joseph Shaw, chairman of the LMS, said: “This initiative is a clear expression of the harmonious reintegration of the Extraordinary Form into the life of the Church which Pope Benedict XVI so patently desires. It is a wonderful idea to have a centre for Eucharistic devotion in Shrewsbury diocese and the Institute of Christ the King are second to none in their devotion to Our Blessed Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar.”

Frank McGowan, a parishioner at Ss Peter and Paul who campaigned against its closure, said it was “wonderful” that the institute may work with local Catholics to restore the church. But he said a vernacular Mass on Sundays was “essential” if the community was to survive and questioned whether locals would contribute funds in light of controversy over past donations to the parish.

He said the bishop was a “spiritual man” who is “undoubtedly very earnest and genuine in his wish to sort out the complications of this previously abandoned parish”.

The church of Ss Peter and Paul, built in the Renaissance style and opened in 1935, was closed because of rising maintenance and repair costs and a shrinking congregation.

The Institute of Christ the King was founded by Mgr Wach in 1990. It has recently re-opened two churches in the US and one in Belgium.

  • Jeannine

    This should be a welcome sign for those Catholics who prefer the Traditional Mass.

  • Marypettifor

    What exciting news. The Institute of Christ the King has taken over a similar landmark church in southside Chicago, which has become very popular.

    http://www.institute-christ-king.org/chicago/chicago-restoration/

  • Paul

    I think tyhat the Institute of Christ the King can be relied upon to make a great success of this venture,

  • Ratbag

    Exciting news indeed! It makes a change that we are reading news about a church is in the process of being re-opened instead of churches closing.

    Mass in the extraordinary form is gaining popularity – even in a church near me – though there will be some who are used to the vernacular. I wonder how parishoners and the Institute of Christ the King can iron this out?

    However, we must continue our prayers to God and His Holy Mother like never before, for more good news like this.

    Way to go, Bishop Mark!

  • Guest

    This is fantastic news! I love the Institute and have wished they would come to the UK for many years.

    However, is there a demand for the EF Mass in Wirral? Would the Catholic population in Wirral attend this Church? Will they donate funds to help restore the Church?

  • Roryodonnell

    frabdojousday!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget the Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey from Liverpool where there is growing interest in the EF.

  • rachel

    Mass said in both forms causes so much confussion, with the laity, you have the Latin Mass with all the reverence and respect then mass in English with all the novelties, no both forms together from my experience, are a compromise and will not work.

  • Auricularis

    “Frank McGowan, a parishioner at Ss Peter and Paul who campaigned against its closure, said it was “wonderful” that the institute may work with local Catholics to restore the church. But he said a vernacular Mass on Sundays was “essential” if the community was to survive and questioned whether locals would contribute funds in light of controversy over past donations to the parish.”

    With all due respect – the parish closed down precisely because the mass in the vernacular did NOT attract the numbers needed to keep it open. Give the traditional mass a go and see that it will work wonders for your faith and draw many conversions, just like it did for Msgr Ronald Knox, G. K. Chesterton and Blessed John Henry Newman.

  • Michael

    Sorry to read of your experience. Our parish has had the Latin Mass and the Mass in English for almost 12 years and there is no confusion amongst parishioners. I don’t know what Mass you’ve attended that has “novelties” but we follow the Roman Rite of the Ordinary Form, as does the current pope who clearly said that the OF + EF can be mutually enriching. I prefer the Latin but my 78 year old mother much prefers the Mass in her own language as she does not understand Latin.

  • crouchback

    Exactly…..well said Auricularis….

    I ‘ve just Google mapped this, Liverpool is only 17 mins away, there should be enough Catholics in the hinterland to fund the reordering no problem…..if there is a shortage of money….then Archbishop Kelly needs to shut some of his failing parishes…..of which he’ll have quite few…..sell the 1960′s Wigwam type structures and plough the money into New Brighton……what could be easier…????

    It’s a great time to be Catholic……if only the dead wood, would clear off………

  • crouchback

    Come on….no weasel words…..which do you prefer….Reverence or Novelties…..

    Any Bishops looking in…….maybe you’d like to help her out….????

  • Funny face

    Yes there is demand for the EF on Wirral! We have a larger congregation than Liverpool!

  • NevilleDeVilliers

    More liturgical regression. Back to worshiping the little golden breadbox where the inanimate sacramental Christ dwells, or carrying this holy trophy about in solemn processions. Instead of being quickened by His Word and receiving Him in the holy mysteries.

  • NevilleDeVilliers

    and in New York City a prominent parish has canceled one of the very few Tridentine (1962) masses offered in Manhattan, or anywhere else in the city. Who says the Novus Ordo is dead? Only the brain dead believe it.