Bishop of Leeds under fire over church closures

The Catholic Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, has found himself in hot water over church closures in the Pontefract and Wakefield deaneries.

The bishop came under fire after announcing changes to the pastoral provision of the two deaneries that include the closure of seven churches.

The decision has proved unpopular with local parishioners, who accuse Bishop Roche of breaking canon law.

They have sought the intervention of politicians and heritage bodies in a bid to save their churches from closure.

Labour peer Lord Lofthouse has offered his support to parishioners, accusing the bishop of "putting finance before Christian teaching".

Bishop Roche has, meanwhile, defended the closures, saying that the shortage in priests has made them necessary "in order to provide more effective pastoral care".

"It is sad, but nonetheless a fact, that I am no longer able to provide the same number of Masses in the many churches of the diocese as in previous years," said Bishop Roche.

He added, ""I am aware of how difficult it is for people to leave familiar and much loved churches, and I am very conscious of the sadness being felt at this time.

"However, as the Church we need to look at the future which is being presented to us with prudence and courage and with an eye to providing realistically, and therefore as effectively as possible within our means, for present and future generations."

According to The Telegraph, the bishop's press secretary John Brady said that congregations under 200 "aren't viable any more".