Plea to Pope in Cross Hills church battle

Members of the congregation at St Joseph’s Church in Cross Hills, from left, Mary Askew and Gerry and Joan Griffin, protesting about the plan

Members of the congregation at St Joseph’s Church in Cross Hills, from left, Mary Askew and Gerry and Joan Griffin, protesting about the plan

First published in News

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

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

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 the past three decades, said: “When I was told I was so shocked. I cried all through mass.

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

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

“This is nothing to do with the priest. It is a decision that 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 Airedale Hospital until next summer.

One of the worshippers, Vernon Reeves, of Utley, said it was particularly hard to take when money had been raised to repair the fabric of the building.

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 is not financially feasible and will be like “pouring good money after bad”, he added.

And there is every possibility there will not be a priest to serve there in the future.

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.

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