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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 19:22 GMT
Fifteen churches to close
The Church of St Peter and St Paul, which is one to close in the Diocese of Salford
St Peter and St Paul's is one of the oldest in the diocese
Falling congregations and a shortage of priests have been blamed for plans to close 15 catholic churches in the Salford diocese.

The decision by the diocese to close the churches has led to anger and hurt among congregations, but the church says it has no choice.

In the past year 42 priests have either died, moved away or retired in the diocese - which includes Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire - with few new ordinations.

The Bishop of Salford, the Right Reverend Terence Brain, said the closures were necessary as the church attempted to find what its role was in a changing society.

"We are asking ourselves what the purpose is of the church," he told BBC North West Tonight.

On the lack of priests, he added: "Our society in general doesn't look at the idea of vocation as a good thing. Most of our hospitals are depending on nurses from abroad or else we would be in a terrible state."

Laura Latimer worships in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Bolton, which is to close
It is so sad. I can't tell anyone how sad I am
Laura Latimer - worshipper
But worshippers at many of the churches said they were hurt and angry at the decision.

One of the churches to be closed is the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Bolton.

It has roots stretching back to 1794 and was the first catholic church to open in Bolton after the Reformation.

Its priest, Father John McNamara, said: "The people here are quite upset.

"Everything is in the hands of the bishop. All I know is it's closing. It's very, very sad."

Laura Latimer, who has worshipped at the church for 80 years, said when she first heard it was to close she felt a great deal of anger, but that had since turned to sadness.

She said: "I have a great affinity for this church.

"It has been good to me. I love it.

"It is so sad I can't tell anyone how sad I am."

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