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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Church may sell palaces
Auckland Palace
Auckland Palace has 50 rooms and 30 acres
The Church of England is considering selling bishops' traditional homes to save money and improve its image.

The properties, which include some lavish palaces, are worth an estimated 65m and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to maintain.

There is also a fear that the image of bishops living in splendour is damaging people's perception of the church, especially as some parishes struggle to finance themselves.

The Church Commission will consider each of more than 100 buildings in a review expected next year.
Tourists at the palace in Bath
The bishop's home in Bath has many visitors

Successive Bishops of Durham have lived at the spectacular Auckland Palace for 900 years, which has 50 rooms, a banqueting hall and 30 acres of parkland.

Estate agents have estimated it would cost about 2m on the housing market.

The present bishop, the Right Rev Michael Turnbull, told BBC News: "Wherever the bishop was, he would need a fair amount of space, for office space, to house his staff and that kind of thing.

"So it would be a difficult decision to make, especially bearing in mind the history tied up in this place and the affection in County Durham for which it's held."

'Hypocrisy'

Some of the palaces have a great influence on the community because they attract many visitors.

And in Bath, there is resistance to any moves to sell the bishop's palace, for this reason.

The present Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Right Rev Peter Price, helps out with repairs and maintenance.
Rt Rev Peter Price
Rt Rev Peter Price helps with repairs

He said: "It's a very busy place and part of all that is to try to create an income that will enable us to continue to maintain this beautiful heritage property, but with minimum cost to the church itself."

Critics claim some clergy abuse the wealth at their disposal, in contrary to the Christian message.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said: "There are some who understand the teachings of the Bible, but others who appear to revel in the wealth which surrounds them.

"They appear to be very happy to employ chauffeurs and gardeners and others, and whose lifestyle is very much at odds with the teachings they propound."

There were reports last month that Patrick O'Donoghue, Roman Catholic bishop of Lancaster, planned to sell his 1m home and give most of the proceeds to the poor.

See also:

07 Sep 01 | UK
28 May 02 | England
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