Catholic churches saved from closure

Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, which includes the Borders.
Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, which includes the Borders.

Plans to close ‘a significant number’ of Catholic churches in the south of Scotland have been dropped following a two-year consultation.

Archbishop Leo Cushley has shelved draft proposals which mooted closing churches across the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, including 10 in the Borders.

Mr Cushley says he has listened to parishioners, who strongly objected to any church closures, and the future of St Andrews at Eyemouth, Our Lady Immaculate & St Margaret’s at Duns, St Mary’s at Kelso, The Immaculate Conception in Jedburgh, Ss Mary & David at Hawick, Our Lady & St Joseph, Selkirk, St Cuthbert’s at Melrose, Our Lady & St Andrew at Gala, St James’ at Innerleithen, and St Joseph’s in Peebles, have all now been secured.

“If you choose to consult with parishioners and priests, then you have to listen to what they are saying,” the Archbishop said. “In this instance, I was happy to be persuaded by the case that was made to me by many of our people and clergy.

“The fact is, people are very attached to their local churches and have expressed a wish in many places to keep them.”

Public meetings were attended by more than 7,000 parishioners during the course of the consultation, which was launched in 2015.

In a pastoral letter read at Masses across the Borders on Sunday, Archbishop Cushley said that although it was likely that some clusters would be merged in terms of administration, plans going forward now included keeping church buildings that were already in use, open, as long as they were “affordable and wished”.

Although he conceded: “The time may well come in the future when not every church or chapel can expect Sunday Mass to be celebrated in it every week”.

While exact details of Archbishop Cushley’s plan are not yet finalised, he said he wanted to issue the letter to keep parishioners in the loop.

Final decisions are expected to be taken in the next few months, following a last consultation with the Archdiocesan Council of Priests.