is facing a funding criiis that is threatening its day:o-day running.
Mgr Mark Langham, the administrator of Westminster Cathedral. London, said money "continues to be a besetting problem".
Current estimates put the cathedral deficit at more than £250,000 a year. A subsidy from dioceses throughout England and Wales is one of the options under consideration to resolve the situation.
Writing in this month's edition of Oremus, the cathedral's monthly magazine, Mgr Langham said: "I have always been slightly dismis
sive of priests who always talk about money — now 1 find myself doing it. Last year, a deficit of one third of a million pounds. At times, I am tempted to despair — it seems a riddle that cannot be solved."
Fund-raising leaflets currently on display in the cathedral urge visitors to make a donation or sign up to one of the tax-efficient planned giving schemes. The marketing says £2 must be raised every minute to keep Westminster Cathedral going.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, has spoken of Westminster Cathedral as a "national institution". Mgr Langham said some form of national subsidy to fund the cathedral had been discussed.
He said: "It's something you've got to consider. I'm very aware meeting the deans of the other Catholic cathedrals that they have their own problems and wouldn't look kindly on subsidising the cathedral.
But we are a national shrine and it's something we have to be, very sensitive about. We have tentatively discussed it."
He added: "1 do think there's a lack of appreciation of the national role we play and also the costs of what we do. It's very expensive to maintain our musical tradition. Every time the choir sings it costs the cathedral £1,000. You have to commit yourselves to that but it is very expensive to maintain."
The cathedral, which this year marked its centenary, must raise in excess of £1 million per annum to cover running costs that include the day-to-day administration of a building that offers Mass over 40 times every week.
Mgr Langham lists the discovery of cracks in the Ambrosden Avenue wall, a temperamental lift, the structural requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and fire precautions as just some of the factors adding to the finance bill for 2003.
In addition there are basic servicing costs of heating, maintenance and security which have meant that the financial burden has continued to outstrip funds.
Mgr Langham told The Catholic Herald that the key was building a sense of community and responsibility that would encourage people to support the cathedral.
"Over a long period we've not put in place a way of funding our cathedral," he said. "It's just a very expensive place to keep standing both from a practical point of view and its liturgical function:' The financing of the cathe dral is completely independent from the diocese though Westminster has written off a £1 million pound debt.
Funding is sourced through collections at Mass. donations and planned giving, and income generated through Westminster Cathedral Limited which runs the cathedral shop, the kitchen and the tower lift that takes sightseers to the top of the campanile.
The cathedral has employed a full time fund raiser, Charles Donington, to raise public awareness of the need for support.
Mgr Langham said that though there was a pastoral concern, cathedral officials had to he serious about managing costs.
He said: "For example we will never ever charge for people to come into the cathedral. That would utterly undermine what Westminster Cathedral is about. Cardinal Hume's maxim was that people should think about giving an hour's salary on a weekly basis.
"The cathedral is an icon of Catholic faith in our land, it's where people look to see what the Catholic Church is doing and therefore the Church in England and Wales has a responsibility towards it."
Editorial Comment: Page 9