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Archbishop Nichols ends ‘Soho Masses’ after six years

By on Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Archbishop Nichols (Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Archbishop Nichols (Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has announced that Masses in Soho organised for gay people are to end.

He also revealed that the church where the Masses took place will be entrusted to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The fortnightly “Soho Masses” at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street were established by the diocese almost six years ago. They were intended to be “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”.

Archbishop Nichols said today that, while the Masses will stop, pastoral care of the community will continue at the Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair on Sunday evenings.

He also announced that in Lent Our Lady of the Assumption church will be “dedicated to the life” of the ordinariate. The archbishop said: “I hope that the use of this beautiful church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the ordinariate.”

A statement from the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, which organised the Masses, said: “Following several weeks of reflection on the benefits and potential challenges which it represents to our pastoral outreach to the LGBT Catholic Community on behalf of the Diocese of Westminster, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council is pleased to accept Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ invitation to transfer our base of activity from the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory to the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Farm Street.

“We are also very grateful to the Jesuit Community at Farm Street for the welcome and hospitality they have offered there as well as to the Provincial and Superior of the Society.

“The purpose of the Soho Masses has been, and remains, to encourage the LGBT Catholic Community to participate fully in the life of the Church, the diverse body of Christ, through participation in the Mass, and through shared prayer. In this we have become victims of our own success, in terms of the number of people who have joined the Eucharistic community of our congregation.

“This means that, while the body of the church in Warwick Street is still adequate to our number, the lack of other facilities in the 18th-century building has become a limiting factor in organising social and pastoral activity and prayer, in particular for elderly, infirm or disabled people.

“We therefore look forward with much anticipation to the opportunity of using the greater space offered by the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and, since we have kindly been relieved of our responsibility of organising the Mass, to respond positively to the archbishop’s challenge to develop our pastoral work in this ‘new phase’ of our peripatetic existence.

“The Masses at Farm Street will, clearly, continue to be at the heart of our life in communion, and of our pastoral activity, and we look forward to participating fully in them. We are sure those priests with connections to Farm Street who have ministered to us at Warwick Street in the past will make us feel especially welcome.

“Our only reservation regarding the transfer of base is that our title becomes somewhat of a misnomer, in that we shall be in Mayfair, rather than in Soho. However, given the value of the title ‘Soho Masses’ we shall continue to use it.”

Statement from the Diocese of Westminster
2 January 2013

Pastoral Care

1. Many people come to the Church with the hope of finding understanding, compassion, mercy and truth. The Church endeavours to respond to their hope through the provision of pastoral care. For many years now the Diocese of Westminster has sought to extend the pastoral care of the Church to those who experience same-sex attraction. This care has been motivated by an awareness of the difficulties and isolation they can experience and by the imperative of Christ’s love for all. In recent years this pastoral care has focused on the celebration of Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street.

2. Over these years, the situation of people with same-sex attraction has changed both socially and in civil law. However the principles of the pastoral care to be offered by the Church and the Church’s teaching on matters of sexual morality have not. First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation . The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life. As I stated in March 2012, this means ‘that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the Church. No individual, bishop, priest or lay-person, is in a position to change this teaching of the Church which we hold to be God-given.’ (Catholic Herald article 17 March 2012). This is the calling to which we must all strive.

3. At this point, and after six years of the pastoral care offered at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, it is time for a new phase. Two considerations give shape to this new phase. The first is to recall that the original aim of this pastoral provision at Warwick Street was to enable people with same-sex attraction ‘to enter more fully into the life of the Church’ ‘specifically within the existing parish structures’ (Diocese of Westminster press statement 2 Feb 2007). The second is the importance of recognising that there is a distinction to be made between the pastoral care of a particular group and the regular celebration of the Mass. The Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church. This ‘universal’ character of the Mass is to be nurtured and clearly expressed in the manner of every celebration. The purpose of all pastoral care, on the other hand, is to encourage and enable people, especially those who are in difficult circumstances, to come to participate fully and worthily in the celebration of the Mass in the midst of the whole Church, the people summoned by the Lord to give him, together, worthy service and praise.

4. I am, therefore, asking the group which has, in recent years, helped to organise the celebration of Mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care. This includes many of the activities which have recently been developed and it is to be conducted fully in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Such pastoral care will include support for growth in virtue and holiness, the encouragement of friendship and wider community contacts, always with the aim of helping people to take a full part in the life of the Church in their local parish community. It will not include the organisation of a regular Mass. In order to assist in this important work, I am grateful to the Jesuit Fathers of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street who have agreed to make premises available on Sunday evenings and are ready to extend a welcome to this group. I have asked Mgr Seamus O’Boyle to continue to offer my support and guidance for this group.

5. At the same time, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is being dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for their groups in central London. I hope that the use of this beautiful Church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the Ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the Ordinariate.

6. These new arrangements are to come into effect during Lent 2013.

An account of how the “gay-friendly” Masses first began can be read here.

  • cewubaaca

     Can’t believe you didn’t take the effort to reply to my last post in the Telegraph.
    What’s wrong? Too much reason for you?

  • Charles Martel

     The Church is not anti-BLT people, it’s anti-homosexual behaviour, and anti those who flaunt their BLT activities.

  • Charles Martel

    About time. I wonder if Archbishop Nichols will apologise to those faithful Catholics who protested against these BLT Masses. If I remember rightly, he said we should our tongues….

  • http://queeringthechurch.com/ Terence Weldon

    It is completely incorrect to describe this as “shutting down” or ending these valuable Masses. The statement makes clear that it amounts to a relocation, and entering a “new phase”. When we moved from St Anne’s to Warwick Street, this did not end the Soho Masses, but took them into a new phase, which has proved to be one of great growth, moving from the simple provision of Mass twice a month, to a greater emphasis on pastoral provision – retreats, workshops, discussion and faith sharing groups and the like. 

    The new phase will relieve us of the burden of arranging the details of Mass twice a month – but will give us much greater opportunity to continue in the same direction, and organised by the same group of people – with Mass no longer just twice a month, but weekly. This will emphatically not be the “end” of the Soho Masses (except perhaps in name), but could well be the start of an important expansion of LGBT diocese, for Westminster and even beyond – see


  • Tomfeeney45

    So very happy that the Ordinariate have got a real home, this is great news, I hope that this will help them.  Having seen the reception of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Church yesterday at the Oratory in Oxford I pray that the Ordinariate will grow and flourish.

  • SMPC Chair

    Oh dear – a great deal of supposition and guesswork going on here. If I might put a different perspective and a few facts:- at last year’s annual Archiepiscopal review of the Soho Masses, it was highlighted that the very success of the Masses is putting a strain on the limited resources of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council. – although the centre and heart of this Eucharistic community (which started in 1999, and moved into Warwick St. in 2007) is, and has always been, the Mass, the suggestion was made, and discussed with the Jesuit authorities well before the Ordinariate  agreed to move into Warwick St., that the LGBT Catholic congregation participate at Mass in Farm St., and that the SMPC focus, in the “new phase” as described above, on pastoral outreach.- Farm St., while less directly accessible by public transport than Warwick St., and rather further away from Soho, the natural catchment area of the LGBT Catholic community,offers better facilities and accessibility to the elderly/disabled LGBT Catholics who cannot use the rickety stairs at Warwick St.- the Archbishop is very aware that Westminster is really the only Diocese in Europe where the Church puts some meat on the bones of her teaching on the “dignity of the homosexual person” by offering the pastoral provision it does.- this move is to be construed as experimental  – should it fail to build on the current success of the pastoral provision to the LGBT Catholic community, both the Diocese and the SMPC are open to further discussion on improvement

  • Spritual


  • AReluctantSinner
  • AReluctantSinner

     Thank you Holy Father.

  • athelstane

    Hello Kevin,

    And the Church in England and Ireland has worked extra hard over the last fifty years to make the church something irrelevant to their lives and unable to speak to them.  Which is ironic, because those bishops and clergy and theologians really thought it was all about making it “more relevant.”  

    If the Church seems consumed by the Spirit of the Age (a Spirit far more obsessed with sexuality and gender than anyone in the Church), the Age ends up not having much use for it. They can stay home on Sunday mornings and watch football. And that’s what most of them do.

  • Cestius

    I don’t know about the Irish Church, but in my part of England there are plenty of young people attending Mass, our congregations are all ages, multicolored and quite vibrant.  And the church doesn’t obsess about sexuality and gender, it just teaches what it’s always taught and always will and that’s the end of the matter.  If you want to see a church that tries to change its teachings in line with secular opinion go to a liberal parish of the Church of England and you are far more likely to see an aging and diminishing congregation there.

  • athelstane

    “Virtually no straight Catholics do not use birth control – look at the size of Catholic families, yet they are not attacked.”
    That’s because nearly all English (and American and Canadian) bishops have been too gutless to actually teach what the Church has always taught about the proper role of sex within marriage. 

    If Johnny and Jane Pewsitter know about this teaching at all, they have no idea why the Church teaches what it does. They have never heard it from the pulpit – ever. They have never heard it from their bishop.  

  • athelstane

    There’s nothing in Lumen Gentium that contradicts what St. Augustine says.

    What passage do you have in mind?

  • Cestius

    Yes, but weak and fallible beings that are likely to sin again. But good Catholics know that, they know that you cannot get to heaven just by trying to be good, we are all in need of God’s continuing forgiveness as well as our own best efforts.

  • athelstane

    This is a very generous gesture to the Ordinariate, which now has, finally, a church it can call its own.

  • rjt1

    Lumen Gentium 2.: “At the end of time it [the Church] will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,”(2*) will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.”

    If all the saved (the just) are gathered together in the universal Church, then no one who is saved will be saved outside the Church.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Blessed are they.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Then he gave good advice.

  • Leo Ladenson

    This is what we in the States call a “twofer.”

  • Chris Gillibrand

    Why did that take so long?

  • Jason Clifford

    This is good news indeed.

    I do have one small complaint however. The article refers to “gay people”. To use this phrase is to buy into homosexual lobby propaganda which seeks to redefine language so as to encourage people to think that the primary defining characteristic of a person who experiences same sex attraction is their experience of sexual attraction.

  • PaulHalsall

    15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.

    16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

  • rjt1

    Ok Paul but I don’t see this as implying that people are saved outside the Catholic Church, merely that, at a certain point in time, they are not yet united or not yet fully united with her. If it were otherwise, LG would not explicitly state that all the just will be gathered together in the universal Church (which is the Catholic Church).

  • Max


  • PaulHalsall

    You clearly had not read the document before.

    What it states (which is was the Lefebrists object to) is that Pope Boniface VIII was wrong – there is salvation for those not subject to the bishop of Rome.

  • John Queer

    “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” — This actually does not work in practice as it is impossible to remove a person’s behaviour from the definition of person. We are defined by what we think and what we do. To say you hate homosexual behaviour, is to be hateful towards homosexual people.

  • rjt1

    I have read the document before. However, I do not come to the same conclusion as the Lefebrists or yourself.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    No more than to talk of “heterosexual people” encourages people to think that the primary defining characteristic of a person who experiences other sex attraction is their experience of sexual attraction.

  • http://www.catholicyouthwork.com Catholic Youth Work

    So in order to not hate somebody I have to agree with everything about them?… You wanna stop and think that through for a second?

    Unfortunately, in life we don’t get to just designate those who disagree with us as hateful. We need to do a little better than that. Otherwise, it’s just one step short of “yer mam!”

    We need to build a society in which people are freely able to say that they disagree with something without being accused of being a hateful bigot. Otherwise, all debate gets quashed and we live in a totalitarian state. Telling people what they can and cannot believe is as much a form of oppression as anything else. What happens all too often is people are afraid to open their mouths for fear of being called “bigots” etc, and this quashes debate.

    If you are really right about something, wouldn’t you rather win the argument on it’s merits than shut up the opposition?

    After all, many people I know disagree with my faith, and they tell me so, but I believe they still like me, and I still like them. I am comfortable enough in who I am and in my relationships with those people to be able to accept that. My faith is something I didn’t chose (though I chose to practice it) and it is absolutely central to who I am – much more so than my sexuality. But others have a right to disagree. They have a right to criticise, and I have to be mature enough to accept that.

    Debates can even be growthful if we let them :)

  • Rizzo The Bear

    The Catholic Church in Ireland is in a woeful state and has been for many years.

    For a kick-off, young people here in the UK are filling seats at the Extraordinary Form, plain and simple masses with no clowns, guitars, bells, whistles and silly dances at the offertory procession.

    The media is obsessed with the Church’s teachings on sexuality and gender. The media never report on the other 99% of the GOOD it does.

    You should cop yourself on.

  • Rizzo The Bear

    True. There are three near me and they don’t have bumper-to-bumper cars parked outside like they do at my Roman Catholic parish!

  • Rizzo The Bear

    Brilliant news!

    God bless the CDF!

  • Kevin

    The language in this statement is still overblown. Is there another sin that gets this attention? Pastoral care for the avaricious perhaps? No doubt that can be quite an isolating experience.

  • Kevin

    The only people who use the expression “heterosexual people” are those who are trying to validate the expression “homosexual people”.

  • Alan

    My immediate (cynical?) reaction is that this might have something to do with the timing of the Archbishop’s elevation to Cardinal.
    Another thought: would those who object to ministering to homosexuals also object to ministering to prisoners, for example?

  • http://twitter.com/coach4creatives Kevin O’Neill

    There is a major difference between UK and Irish Catholicism. 
    In the UK, Catholic dogma is a minority interest. It is largely irrelevant in the life of the UK. 

    But in Ireland everybody has a real understanding of the rules and regulations. 95% of kids are taught them. 95% of kids get baptised and confirmed. 

    And yet they have turned away. Are you saying that if Ireland hit 100 % compliance, with more priests, more regular sermons, more control of politics etc, then there would be more entering the priesthood? Really? (I think there was just 2 last year in a city of 1 million.)

    My local church in Dublin had a 9% reduction in offerings last year, 6% the previous year. And they are budgeting on a further 9% reduction in 2013. Are you saying that if only irish catholicism was less liberal it could recover? Really? 

  • Fairdiamonds

    Jesus would never have stopped people worshipping God. Can you imagine him stopping people meeting together to pray? This whole situation makes me so sad and angry. 
    Gay people are made to feel strange and outside of society by people like you, leaving these comments and Vincent Nichols. 
    God created gay people!! Jesus did not die for us to be nasty to each other and make people feel bad and tell them they can’t pray together. A person’s sexuality is irrelevant to anyone but themselves and their partners, hopefully in future, their husbands and wives.
     Jesus asked us to love God and love one another as ourselves, you all know that. Love your London neighbours and condemn this action, please. The ordinariate do not need their own church! They are not condemned by the misguided institution of the catholic church like homosexuals are….we should be known for our love and acceptance of one another, NOT our dislike, distaste and suppression of one another as is happening here. Live to love, love to live.

  • GratefulCatholic

    Homosexuality is part of God’s Plan: St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 1:23-25.

  • Charles

    Word of caution: we must be vigilant against any violence or attack on the ordinariate when the gays get angry that their masses have stopped. We don’t want the ordinariate to pay for their anger. Second, the Anglican tradition is best served with a medieval Gothic church so let’s hope that this church is only temporary until a fine English Gothic style Cathedral can either be restored or built by the Ordinariate.

  • Ghengis

     The beautiful Gothic Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair would actually be much more appropriate for the Odinariate (rather than for gay masses) because the medieval English gothic style is much more in line with the Anglican tradition that we are supposed to be preserving in the Ordinariate.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    One wonders what this Jesuit Farm Street is like? Anyway, it seems to me at least the most important point about what Church teaching consists of is quite clear. Church morality and teaching does not consist of anything that concerns certain private sexual habits. But why should this be a so-called ” issue” ?

    It only becomes an issue or a burden when we seek to find it so by asking stupid questions. Let’s stop minding other people’s business and stick to our own. And remember the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well who has had loads of husbands and wasn’t even married to the bloke she had when she became so blessed by Jesus himself.

  • chiaramonti

    AND REMEMBER what Our Lord said after he refused to condemn her – Go and sin no more!

  • Patricius

     Pastoral care for the adulterously inclined!

  • Daniel

    The comparison doesn’t stand up: prisoners have no choice but to congregate together for Mass and pastoral provision- they don’t have the option of popping out for an hour or so on Sunday mornings- and in any case, the move isn’t about not wishing to minister to such persons. This move is designed to help those who would be close to God to enter more fully into the life of the universal church, and moreover, they will benefit greatly from the support of the Farm Street/Mount Street fathers and community.

  • Charles Martel

     If it hadn’t been for ordinary Catholics protesting about this, nothing would ever have changed. Congratulations to all those who e-mailed Archbishop Nichols and the Vatican to get this thing stopped.

  • Proteios29

    I hope I am speaking for everyone when I say that I hope no one attacks anyone over this or anything like this. I understand what you mean, though. It’s all of our responsibility to love and care for all, especially poor sinners…like us. It’s all of our responsibilities to follow the teachings of the church with diligence and devotion, and not rewrite it to fit our lifestyle.

  • Charles Martel

     Or maybe these BLTs should ask themselves whether they have to change themselves, rather than trying to change the Church. Catholic teaching on these matters has never changed, and never will. Homosexuals can try to follow these teachings or give up and go elsewhere that make no demands on them, but let’s not pretend that there is any confusion about what Catholic teaching is.

  • Charles Martel

     Mr Queer, that is a very queer thing to say. It is clear you have not given the issue any thought at all, but are simply parroting the usual propaganda line. Do you oppose pedophilia? I hope so. Does that mean you hate pedophiles as human beings?

  • Charles Martel

     God bless the CDF, having finally done something about this after doing b*gger all for the past 6 years despite so many protests and pleas from the Faithful.

  • Charles Martel

     Terence, please take your queering elsewhere. The Church has been queered enough already and we have suffered the dreadful consequences in the pedophile scandals of the past few years. The Church now needs straightening out, not queering.