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Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 15:15 GMT
Last service in Sailortown church
St Joseph's is in the docks area of Belfast
St Joseph's to close after last service
The last service has been held in Saint Joseph's Church in the docks area of Belfast.

The Catholic Church said it had to close because there is no longer a sustainable local community in the Sailortown area.

But the decision has been criticised by some parishioners and there was a protest during the service on Sunday morning.

About 50 people walked out of the mass during a sermon by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh.


There are only seven families living within the parish boundary itself

Fr Michael Sheeran
A few people shouted their protests as the Bishop rose to speak. After his sermon many of those who had left returned.

Several parishioners have been campaigning to keep the 120 year-old listed building open and have been critical of the decision to close the church.

Church denies sell-off claim

Residents are claiming the Catholic Church is preparing to sell off St Joseph's as part of a multi-million pound development.

The claim has been denied by the Church.

The Bishop has written to the Sailortown Cultural and Historical Society inviting them to meet him.

Speaking at Sunday's service, Fr Michael Sheeran explained why the Catholic Church had taken the decision to close St Joseph's.

He said a detailed survey was carried out and building repairs alone would cost 2.2m.

"The issue was also the fact that the parish has been decimated over the years and there are only seven families living within the parish boundary itself," he said.

A group of parishioners from the docks area of Belfast say they will continue to gather for Sunday mass at the church.

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