by Lucy Lethbridge The prospect of an act of "Cromwellian vandalism" is dividing the parishioners of St Robert Bellarmine's in Bootle, according to a letter received by the Catholic Herald this week.
The church is to be re-ordered, the name given to the process of implementing the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. It is to be stripped of its grandiose marble baldacchino, which was installed in the 1930s and is a replica of one in Rome which was admired by the parish priest of the time. The postVatican II changes in Catholic churches throughout the country, have seen altars brought forward and ornate decoration pared down to a simpler look, more in keeping with the spirit of the council.
The parish priest of St Robert Bellarmine's, Fr Edward Cain, says that with a smaller modern altar now placed in front on the original one, he has no room to genuflect as he "hits his knee on the bottom step".
But one parishioner, Ms Veronica Blanchard, writes that the "sanctuary has housed three priests, 12 candle-bearing altar boys, 2 ordinations and countless confirmations. It is unbelievable that there is not enough room for one celebrant".
Fr Cain said: "This lady has been running a campaign largely of her own making". He insisted that the marble is to be used to create new furnishings, fully approved by the diocesan arts and architecture COMMittee.
Members of the diocesan art and architecture committee were adamant that a majority of St Robert Bellamine's parishioners are in favour of the re-ordering. Canon Leo Stoker, chairman of the liturgical committee, said that "as far as I could ascertain, the correct procedures have been followed."