By Richard Shaw
THE BISHOP of Brentwood
has underlined his opposition to a new Franciscan order setting up in his diocese.
The Friars Minor, who have been at Forest Gate for over a century, are to leave this October.
Previously, Bishop Thomas McMahon, rejected the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate's application to set up in the diocese, because he said the diocese had sufficient Franciscans.
With the Friars Minor's imminent departure, some had thought a space would be provided for the Friars of the Immaculate in the diocese, if not in the parish itself.
Bishop McMahon, however, rejected the suggestion and said he would be no more open than before to any new application from the Franciscan friars of the Immaculate.
He said that he had been aware of the plans for the Friars Minor's departure before he had turned down the Immaculates' application.
"The Friars Minor's plan has been on the table for the past year. I took it all into account," he said.
He added: "We've been blessed with the number of religious orders in the diocese."
The Friars Minor's departure, however, means that there will be a quarter fewer male Franciscan orders in the diocese.
Fr Joseph Francis Mary, of the lmmaculates, has expressed the order's willingness to accept the bishops' decisions.
He said: "We accept the decisions with great peace and respect. We are not upset. We are not discouraged. We are waiting.
We are not giving up. We want people to pray for us."
The Order was founded in 1965 and was approved by the Pope as a Pontifical Institute in 1998. It now has more than 300 friars in houses from Brazil to Russia and from the Philippines to France.
Fr Michael Copps OFM, the parish priest of St Antony of Padua church, Forest Gate, and Vicar Provincial of the Friars Minor, said: "We are going on October 1. though some of the community are going earlier, so this will be the last chance for the whole community to get together with the parish.
"We are sad to be leaving. The Franciscans have been here for about 117 years."
The Friars Minor will, however, retain a presence in Brentwood Diocese. Fr Walter Hobson confirmed that the friars would remain at St Thomas of Canterbury, Woodford Green.
"We are certainly staying put. We've been here for over 100 years," he said.
The Friars Minor also have friars at Stratford and the Franciscan friars of the Renewal are at Canning Town.
There are also a number of Franciscan women's orders in Brentwood. The Franciscan Minoresses are at Maldon, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are in both Canning Town and Goodmayes, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception are at Braintree, Brentwood and Clacton-on-Sea, and the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood are at Chingford and Forest Gate.
The Friars Minor are having their leaving Mass at Forest Gate on St Antony's feast day, June 13, at 7.30pm.
Editorial Comment — p7