LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A controversial plan to close several Catholic churches in Scotland has been dropped by the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after opposition from parishioners.
Archbishop Leo Cushley announced his decision read at all Masses on Feb. 25, after a two-year-long consultation process on the plan announced in 2015.
Currently, the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, which covers southeastern Scotland, contains 103 parishes organized into around 30 clusters containing several parishes, but sharing some pastoral resources.
Originally, Cushley planned on merging several of the parishes, leaving the archdiocese with as few as 30 parishes.
The archbishop held nearly 120 public meetings attended by over 7,000 people, most of whom objected to the plan.
“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,” Cushley said on Sunday, according to the archdiocesan website.
“The first thing that I picked up from the meetings that I attended, the reports, and subsequent meetings with the clergy too, was the attachment of many, though not all, to their local churches,” the archbishop continued. “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 evangelize their communities – this includes a willingness to merge existing parishes.”
According to his pastoral letter, the archdiocese will still consolidate several of the clusters into parishes, “retaining however most of the church buildings already in use for as long as they are affordable, and indeed wished, by clergy and people alike.”
The archdiocesan website said the final number of parishes is likely to be closer to 60 than 30, and most of the churches in the closed parishes would continue to be used for worship.
“The time may well come in the future when not every church or chapel can expect Sunday Mass to be celebrated in it every week, but this is a separate question for us to answer in due course,” Cushley said in the letter.
The archbishop’s final recommendations will be made public in the next few months.