Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pastoral Letter, 25 February 2018

CHURCH CLOSURE PLANS DROPPED: Archbishop Leo Cushley has dropped draft proposals to close a significant number of churches across the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, following a two-year consultation with the people of the Archdiocese which included nearly 120 public meetings attended by over 7,000 parishioners. “If you choose to consult with parishioners and priests, then you have to listen to what they are saying and, in this instance, I was happy to be persuaded by the case that was made to me by many of our people and clergy,” said the Archbishop, Sunday 25 February, “The fact is, people are very attached to their local churches and have expressed a wish in many places to keep them.”  

Archbishop Cushley communicated this decision in a pastoral letter read at every Sunday Mass across the Archdiocese’s 103 parishes. Those parishes are currently organised into 30 or so “clusters” or areas, each containing several parishes. During his consultation, which began in 2015, Archbishop Cushley held public meetings in every cluster area. His two key questions to each cluster area were:

  • “How do we build vibrant, viable Christian communities gathered closely around Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist?”
  • “How would this cluster look if it were to be merged into fewer parishes or even a single parish?”

He then asked the priests and people in each area to discuss his proposal in three meetings held over the period of a year, before submitting to him a report of their deliberations in 2017.

“The first thing that I picked up from the meetings and I attended, the reports, and subsequent meetings with the clergy too, was the attachment of many, though not all, to their local churches.”

“The second thing, though, that consistently came through was the willingness of priests and people to pool limited resources at a local level into larger, more sustainable Catholic parishes that can better evangelise their communities – this includes a willingness to merge existing parishes.”

While exact details of the Archbishop Cushley’s plan won’t be finalised for another few months, he said he wanted to issue his pastoral letter in order to keep parishioners in the loop with latest developments.

The likelihood is that any outcome will see the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh have fewer parishes but with many retaining a number of their present churches, as well as other facilities as their disposal. Initial media speculation in 2015 suggested the resultant number of parishes could be as low as 30 but it now seems like the final figure is more likely to be around the 60 mark.

There is also a possibility that not every church may expect to have the celebration of Holy Mass every Sunday with some parishioners possibly having to be prepared to travel to where Holy Mass is being celebrated.

“I would like to thank the thousands of parishioners who have participated so intelligently, enthusiastically and prayerfully in the decision making process over the past two years,” said the Archbishop.

“Let us continue to go forward together as we attempt to bring the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the people in our part of Scotland.”

It is expected that final decisions will be taken in the next few months following a final consultation with the Archdiocesan Council of Priests. To read Archbishop Cushley’s Pastoral Letter in full click here.