Plea to Pope to save Cross Hills church from closure threat

BOMBSHELL: Members of the congregation at St Joseph’s Church , Cross Hills, speak out after the announcement that the church will close on Sunday, June 1. Mary Askew, Gerry and Joan Griffin are pictured outside St Joseph's

BOMBSHELL: Members of the congregation at St Joseph’s Church , Cross Hills, speak out after the announcement that the church will close on Sunday, June 1. Mary Askew, Gerry and Joan Griffin are pictured outside St Joseph's

First published in News

A woman has written to the Pope and the top Roman Catholic cleric in the UK to help save her church.

Mary Askew, of Glusburn, has sent her plea to the Supreme Pontiff at the Vatican and also to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, in a bid to prevent the axe falling on St Joseph’s Church, Cross Hills.

The news of the closure – which will take effect on June 1 – came as a bombshell to parishioners, who are in the middle of a fundraising campaign to repair the fabric of the building.

Mrs Askew, who has worshipped there for at least three decades, said: “When I was told I was so shocked I cried all through mass.”

She felt so distressed she had written to Pope Francis and Cardinal Nichols.

“I can’t let this go without going as high as I can. Nobody else seems to be listening,” she said.

“The closure is nothing less than a tragedy for so many people. What is so sad is that it is such a vibrant congregation with young families joining.

“This is nothing to do with the priest. It is a decision which has been made elsewhere and we have not been consulted.”

She said parish priest Father Michael McLaughlin had managed to negotiate a stay of execution until June as he was due to preside over the last mass at Easter.

He will continue to be in charge of Catholic services at Silsden and at Airedale Hospital until next summer.

Worshippers expressed their sorrow and dismay when they met at Mrs Askew’s home after morning mass last Wednesday.

Vernon Reeves, of Utley, said it was particularly hard to take when money had been raised to repair the fabric of the building, and some cash had been spent recently on replacement windows.

They said the church was well used by a vibrant congregation and was between 80 and 90 per cent full at mass.

A spokesman for the Leeds Diocese said the decision was initiated by a plan published in 2009 about the viability of churches in relation to their condition and “manpower”.

Keeping St Joseph’s was not financially feasible and would be like pouring good money after bad, he added. And in the future there was every possibility there would not be a priest.

The church, built in the 1920s, is in need of wide-scale repairs, including new guttering and down pipes, plastering, re-wiring, central heating, lighting and toilets. The building also has a small community room which needs work.

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