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BBC NI's Annita McVeigh reports
"About 100 parishioners attended mass outside the church"
 real 28k

Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 17:37 GMT
Congregation fights church closure
About 100 parishioners gathered for the open air mass
About 100 parishioners gathered for the open air mass
Parishioners from a Belfast church, which closed a week ago against their wishes, have vowed to campaign for it to be re-opened.

Some of the congregation attended an outdoor mass on Sunday at Saint Joseph's Church in Pilot Street, in the docks area of the city, in protest at the decision.

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


People are willing to worship in the church and yet they are being effectively locked out of the church by the church authorities

Gerry Gallagher

Church authorities cited a dwindling congregation and a 2m bill to repair the 129-year-old building as the reasons behind the closure.

However, about 100 members of the congregation turned up for Sunday mass and are planning to hold another service next week.

During the service Father Des Wilson said Saint Joseph's was a "holy place under threat from development".

He argued that not all development could go ahead in good conscience.

Protest walk-out

Secretary of the Sailortown Cultural and Historical Society Gerry Gallagher said parishioners strongly believed the building must be maintained as a church.

"We're hoping Bishop Walsh will listen to the people," he said.

"At a time when church attendances are declining across the western world, here we have a situation where people are willing to worship in the church and yet they are being effectively locked out of the church by the church authorities."

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

Residents have claimed the Catholic Church is preparing to sell off Saint Joseph's as part of a multi-million pound development. That claim has been denied by the church.

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11 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Last service in Sailortown church
14 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Focus on future of docks church
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