By Alex Cosgrave Hexham and Newcastle diocese has no outside debts. It owes no money to banks or finance companies, largely because rich parishes help poor parishes, lending them money to build churches, halls and schools with the diocese acting as a central banker.
The diocese's healthy financial position was revealed in its 1977 accounts published this week. It is the first time that the diocese has published its Accounts and it is only the third diocese in the country to make a comprehensive financial statement available to parishioners.
The practice has long been established in Arundel and Brighton, and Westminster published its accounts for the first time earlier this year.
In his introduction to the accounts Bishop Hugh Lindsay stressed that established parishes lending to others was the practice largely responsible for the diocese financial stability.
In 1977, well established parishes deposited nearly £2i million with the diocese. The diocese in turn lent just over f million interest-free and a further £593,766 at the very low interest rate of 3-1per cent to growing parishes who needed it for building.
Deposits with the diocese in fact exceeded loans by just over £580,000, but this was no reason for parishes to feel that they should withdraw the money they had deposited, said Bishop Lindsay.
"It would be a terrible mistake for anyone to think that there is no need to make further deposits or that parish deposits should be withdrawn because they exceed loans," he said.
Parishes received only 2-1 per cent interest on the money they deposited with the diocese, which was much lower than they could achieve if the money was corn mercially invested.
On the other hand the more money deposited with the diocese the greater the amount of interest the diocese was able to pay, and earlier this year the diocese was able to pay a bonus of an extra 21 per cent.
In addition, if the deposits were kept at a high level there were always funds for parishes to withdraw their deposits to pay for essential maintenance. If the level of deposits was to fall it might be necessary to raise the level of interest charged to borrowing parishes.
"I hope that publishing these accounts will encourage parishes to continue helping those parishes which need it rather than undermining this wondeful system," said Bishop Lindsay.
The diocese itself had an income of £318,475 in 1977. More than £226,000 of this came from income on the diocese's investments, most of the rest from interst on loans, rents and the diocesan development collection.
As the diocese spent only
£224,090. it ended the year with an operating surplus of £94,385. The largest item of expenditure was more than £159,000 paid to parishes in interest on their deposits. Diocesan administration was kept down to just over f23,000.
Although the caring work of a diocese cannot be reflected adequately in a financial statement the accounts do reveal that Hexharn and., Newcastle gave I per cent of its previous year's gross income to CAFOD. This totalled £2,564. while a further £4,312 was given to charities chosen by Bishop Lindsay.
Although not included in the central diocesan accounts, parishioners gave more than £1,100,000 to the Chruch by direct giving in 1977 -more than £400.000 as a result of special efforts and £193.000 from covenants. In addition, they contributed more than £102300 to special collections for organisa tions such as the Apostleship of the Sea and the National Catholic Fund.
Bishop Lindsay said he hoped that publishing the accounts would help people to understand how parishes have helped each other through the central diocesan funds and that "it will help us to be even more generous in the future not only to each other but to the many others, both here and abroad, who are rightly looking to us for help and support in the work of the Church."