Latin mass worshippers 'thrown out'

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A group behind a Latin mass held at an under-threat Catholic church in Preston claim they have been thrown out.

The organisers held the traditional mass at St Walburge's Church, in Pedder Street, Ashton, for three weeks – attracting more than 400 people to the church and boosting flagging attendances which had led to the famous building being named as one of 10 churches across the city threatened with closure.

But the group says that the church has now stopped them holding the weekly services and only offering them once-a-month mass, forcing them to move to St Mary Magdalen's Church in Penwortham.

However, parish priest Fr Paul Swarbrick insists that the problem came from a change in arrangements for the service while he was away on holiday.

Jim Aherne, who organised the Latin mass, said: "We must have raised 700 for the church in less than a month and there were people who were willing to throw money at the church at a time when it needs its people most.

"It has upset a lot of people who simply do not know what they have done wrong. A monthly service is no use to us, we are committed to our faith and need to celebrate it every week."

The return of the mass, which had been restricted since the 1960s, follows a message from Pope Benedict XVI saying that the mass would be welcomed by Catholics across the globe.

Mr Aherne, of Penwortham, said the message was supposed to stop groups like his "being treated like second-class citizens".

Now Fr Swarbrick has said he was happy that the group had found a permanent home in Penwortham and believed the "stability" of weekly services would be good for them.

He said: "It is a beginning, which can always be a bit delicate, which is why I asked to take it a month at a time and I was more than happy for that to continue, until I learned of the change.

"I think the group needs stability and if they can find that at St Mary Magdalen's, I wish them well."

St Walburge's is one of 10 churches across Preston threatened with closure as part of proposals put forward by the Diocese of Lancaster, part of a Mission Review aimed at turning around flagging attendances at its churches across Lancashire.

Parishes and deaneries across the Diocese have until Monday, October 15 to submit their responses on the the draft proposals, with a decision on which churches will be axed expected soon after.