BY MARK GREAVES
AN INSTITUTE of priests dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass has agreed to take over a landmark church on the Wirral that was closed for worship three years ago.
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will re-open Ss Peter and Paul church, known as the “Dome of the Home”, in New Brighton later this year. It will be the institute’s first ever base in Britain.
The Grade-II listed church, which was left unused for almost three years, will become a centre for Eucharistic devotion and sacraments in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The breakthrough follows talks last month between Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Mgr Gilles Wach, the general prior of the institute.
At present the institute has no houses in Britain but sends priests over from Belgium to celebrate Sunday Masses in the dioceses of Liverpool, Shrewsbury, Lancaster and East Anglia.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Shrewsbury said that the institute would work closely with Fr Philip Moor, priest at the Holy Apostles and Martyrs parish in nearby Wallasey, “since it is the wish of Bishop Davies that this shrine church will express the harmony between the two usages of the one Roman Rite”.
He said: “As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, reminded us in his 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, ‘there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal’, it is the sincere hope of the bishop that this establishment will foster reconciliation at the heart of the Church: one of the express aims of the 2007 papal document.” The spokesman said the institute would ensure that the “patrimony of the church building so dear to Catholics and other members of the local community is secured”.
Parishioners who protested against the church’s closure for years have said they are “delighted” that it will finally be re-opened.
A spokesman for the campaign group SOUL (Save Our Unique Landmark) said it would be setting up a Friends of Ss Peter and Paul to help raise funds to repair the church building.
The Church of Ss Peter and Paul was closed in 2008 by Bishop Davies’s predecessor, Bishop Brian Noble, because it was seen as too large and too costly to maintain. Its 650-seat capacity was only half-filled on Sundays and, according to the diocese, it needed £800,000 worth of repairs.
The parish was moved to a nearby Anglican church amid protests from parishioners and the opposition of councillors and the local MP.
The following year the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy ruled that the closure of the church had not fulfilled a requirement of Canon Law that “the good of souls would not be harmed”.
But Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, the secretary of the Congregation, withdrew the ruling after being assured that the move to an Anglican church was only temporary.
Mgr Wach of the Institute of Christ the King approached Bishop Davies about taking over the church soon after his ordination as bishop last year.
Bishop Davies consulted with bishops in the north of England, English Heritage and the Patri mony Committee of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference before making his decision.
The bishop partially re-opened Ss Peter and Paul church in March. Masses are now being celebrated in a side chapel there every Friday.
The Institute of Christ the King, founded in 1990, was given pontifical approval as a Society of Apostolic Life in 2008. It has 35 houses in 10 countries, and its mission in Gabon helps lepers and the sick.
A spokesman for SOUL said: “We are most grateful to learn that His Lordship has now affirmed the reopening of our Church, Ss Peter and Paul, New Brighton.
“Members of SOUL are delighted, yet humbled, that through prayerful endeavour of our parish community endorsed by the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican and the perception and wisdom of His Lordship Bishop Davies we have arrived at this very happy moment.
“We wish to put on record our sincere appreciation to the very many people, locally, nationally and internationally, both laity and clergy, who have supported our campaign through prayer, participation and contribution...
“We are most encouraged by the collaboration between the Institute and Fr Phil Moor, who has shown understanding and caring to all parishioners during the time of uncertainty, and look forward to the joyful celebration of Holy Mass in ‘the two usages of the one Roman Rite’, and the other sacraments, in the secured future of our spiritual home.”