BY ANGUS MACDONAJ-D
AUTHORITIES AT Plymouth Cathedral were this week proclaiming an end to the long-running dispute over reordering after Bishop Christopher Budd approved a scheme ' which backs away from the most controversial parts of the original proposals.
There was said to be "an enormous sense of relief" amongst parishioners when the details of the Bishop's final decision over changes to the interior of the neo-Gothic cathedral were announced at Mass last Sunday.
Controversy over the reordering plans has polarised the diocese for months, prompting emotional scenes at meetings, parish council resignations and an appeal to the Pope from outraged traditionalists.
The three aspects of the original plan which raised most opposition the replacement of the cathedral's traditional oak pews with plastic chairs; the introduction of a total immersion baptismal font (dubbed a "swimming pool" by some traditionalists); and the exchanging of an ornate crucifix for a smaller and plainer one have been dropped.
However, the essential elements of the original plan a new altar in the centre of the Church and a "pilgrim way" of local granite paving which links the most important parts of the cathedral will go ahead.
In a short statement issued this week, Bishop Budd said he had "taken note of the many suggestions and concerns" expressed to him in reaching his decision.
Cathedral administrator Fr Bartholomew Nannery told the Catholic Herald: "We feel we want to build bridges and put out a positive image. The bishop has been very reconciliatory he has listened very caringly and sympathetically to what has been said.
"The biggest objections were to the cross, the font, and the chairs these have been addressed. But the main idea is still there that we are positioning the main symbols of faith in their own particular place, and that they are being linked together by the pilgrim way."
He denied that the bishop's decision amounted to a climbdown: "The bishop never made a decision in the first place he set up a design team to come up with a plan, and then sat down and arrived at a decision having listened with sympathy to all in the diocese." The decision had been "enthusiastically accepted" by the whole congregation, Fr Nannery said.
John Collins, the former chairman of the cathedral parish council who has spearheaded opposition to the changes, welcomed the decision: "There's no doubt that the bishop has abandoned most of the proposals that were causing concern. But I don't want to throw this around as a great victory I'm just glad of the outcome for the parishioners." A proposed appeal to Rome would be called off, he said.
But Jennifer Demolder of the Bishops' Conference Liturgy Office told the Catholic Herald: "My reaction is one of disappointment that these exciting and imaginative proposals will not be carried through.
"However, I understand that a compromise had to be reached. The Bishop of Plymouth is a wise and sensitive man who has the welfare of his flock at heart."
Work on the changes, estimated to cost £120,000, will begin next month and should be completed by July. It is the final, delayed, phase of a million scheme for the whole cathedral site.