Page last updated at 19:16 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Row over Bishop group church sale

Richard Williamson's views on Holocaust

A breakaway Catholic group embroiled in a Holocaust row wants to buy a disused church from the Church of England.

The Society of St Pius X has expressed an interest in purchasing St George's Church in Gorton, Manchester.

One of its bishops, Richard Williamson, provoked anger after saying he did not believe Nazi gas chambers existed. He later apologised.

Although the group distanced itself from his comments, local politicians have objected to the church sale.

The Church Commissioners which manages the Church of England's historic assets is considering the sale and has asked for feedback by the end of the month.

A report will then be submitted to the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who will in turn make his recommendations.

It is astonishing that the Church of England feels that this is an acceptable use for St George's Church
Jackie Pearcey, Gorton councillor

A Manchester Diocese spokesman said anyone with concerns about the sale should write to the commissioners by the end of March.

"If there are objections to the proposal, the details of the objections will be sent to the Bishop of Manchester for his comments," the spokesman said.

"The Commissioners will consider carefully the nature of any objections together with the reply from the Bishop of Manchester and then decide how to proceed."

The furore over Bishop Williamson's views came after The Pope revoked his excommunication and that of three other Society of St Pius X bishops in January.

A few months earlier, Bishop Williamson had provoked outrage when he told Swedish television historical evidence was "hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers".

'Unacceptable views'

Liberal Democrat Gorton councillor Jackie Pearcey has written to the commissioners to voice her objections.

She said: "Although the Pope is rehabilitating this group back into the Catholic Church, the fact remains that this sect promotes views on a whole range of issues which are unacceptable in the 21st century.

"It is astonishing that the Church of England feels that this is an acceptable use for St George's Church."

No-one from the Society of Pius X was available for comment.

The ultra conservative group was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the Second Vatican Council's reforms on religious freedom and pluralism.

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The Society of St Pius X has expressed an interest in purchasing St George's Church in Gorton



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