Catholics march on Leeds HQ to protest over church closures

HYMN-singing parishioners marched on the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Leeds to protest over the proposed closures of three churches.

The parish churches of St John the Evangelist at Allerton Bywater, Holy Family at Chequerfield, Pontefract, and Our Lady of Lourdes at Ackworth, all face closure under a re-organisation ordered by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Arthur Roche.

But parishioners are challenging the decision. They say all three churches are well-used. They also say the church authorities have failed to comply with Canon Law in the way the closure decisions have been reached.

They have collected 1,200 signatures on a petition which they plan to send eventually to Rome.

They marched on the church's Leeds Diocesan headquarters at Hinsley Hall, Headingley.

Speaking for the protesters, Malcolm Brumwell said: "We have come to deliver two petitions. One is based on Canon Law which says that the bishop has the right to close the parishes down, but it has to be done acccording to strict rules and they have not done that. They are just riding roughshod over us.

"The second is a petition objecting to the closure of so many Catholic churches in Leeds and asking the authorities to think again. The petition says we have no confidence in the bishop. It has 1,245 signatures and that is going up by the day. We are eventually going to send it to Rome."

The protesters, who ranged from children to elderly people, marched up the drive to Hinsley Hall singing and carrying banners.

The march was a symbolic re-enactment of a march by Roman Catholics in 1536 entitled the Pilgrimage of Grace, which passed through the parishes of Allerton Bywater and Pontefract, to petition Henry VIII following the ransacking of the monasteries and his break from Rome.

No-one was immediately available to comment on behalf of the Bishop. But earlier a spokesman said the church had undergone rapid growth and "over localisation."

The Bishop's office said the parishioners were still "generously provided for."

The parishioners deny this and say they will face bus journeys and long walks to attend church if the closures go ahead.

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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