Exiled worshippers barred from their own church for the past seven months have written to the Vatican for help.
The 130-strong congregation of St Ignatius in Preston, locked out in November when the Bishop of Lancaster ordered its closure, have appealed to Rome for a re-think.
A letter, signed by parishioner Ricci Pinto on behalf of the church flock, has urged the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy to intervene in the dispute.
“All we are asking for Reverent Fathers is to be allowed to have a Sunday Mass again and funerals,” says the letter.
“We pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the compassion to accede to our request.”
The St Ignatius regulars say they have turned to the Vatican after similar appeals to the Archbishop of Westminster and the Papal Nuncio were both turned down.
“Both say they cannot interfere in the diocese of a Bishop,” explained leading campaigner Moira Cardwell. “As the Bishop seems unwilling to change his mind, we have been forced to take our case to Rome. We are refusing to give up campaigning to have our Mass reinstated at St Ignatius. All we want is one service.
“Since we were closed down the Bishop has re-opened the church to allow Indian Syro Malabar Catholics to hold a Sunday service there. If they can use it then why can’t we?”
The Lancaster Diocese ordered the closure of the 179-year-old Grade II Listed building due to falling congregations and a shortage of priests.
At the time the Bishop, the Rt Rev Michael Campbell, said St Ignatius had been a victim of a decline in the Catholic Church in Preston city centre.
In a letter to the Evening Post this week Mrs Cardwell writes: “Surely the Bishop is not too proud to acknowledge that a mistake has been made and re-open St Ignatius to its loyal parishioners.”