THE CATHOLIC community on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, appears divided over the building of a £750,000 church for the island's main town of St Helier.
The church is to replace the existing parish church of St Mary and St Peter which is in an advanced state of disrepair.
The States of Jersey will buy the site of the existing church for £350,000 and redevelop it for housing and the new church is being built on a site nearby.
The outstanding £400,000 is to be raised by the parish but building is going ahead with the assistance of a £200,000 interestfree loan arranged through the diocese of Portsmouth of which the island is a part.
An appeal for funds for the project is understood to have met with a considerable response on the island.
But opposition has emerged in other parts of the island where it is claimed that existing "church capacity'' is more than sufficient to meet the island's needs.
The parish council at St Martin has written to Fr David Mahy, parish priest of St Mary and Si Peter's, expressing themselves "wholly against the proposed building of the new church both on financial grounds and for religious and moral considerations".
Fr Mahy told the Catholic Herald that although he had been able to answer the specific criticisms of the Si Martin parish council he recognised that there had been some degree of opposition to the project.
But even though there is another large church in St Helier he questioned whether it was reasonable to expect a large and flourishing parish such as his own to die, and he instanced the response which there had been inside the parish to the appeal for the new building as an indication of the strength of local support.
Estimates of the number of churchgoing Catholics on Jersey vary from two to four thousand out of a population of 80,000. and there are twelve churches. Regular attendance at St Mary and St Peter's is put at 500, rising to 1,500 during the enormous tourist influx of the summer months.