Catholic churches saved from closure

Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, which includes the Borders.
Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, which includes the Borders.

Plans to close Catholic churches in the south of Scotland have been dropped following a two-year consultation.

Archbishop Leo Cushley has shelved draft proposals to shut churches across the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, including 10 in the Borders.

Mr Cushley says he has listened to parishioners and taken heed of their strong objections to any church closures.

That means the futures of the churches of St Andrew at Eyemouth, Our Lady Immaculate and St Margaret at Duns, St Mary at Kelso, the Immaculate Conception in Jedburgh, Ss Mary and David at Hawick, Our Lady and St Joseph in Selkirk, St Cuthbert at Melrose, Our Lady and St Andrew at Galashiels, St James at Innerleithen and St Joseph in Peebles have all now been secured.

“If you choose to consult with parishioners and priests, then you have to listen to what they are saying,” the archbishop said. “In this instance, I was happy to be persuaded by the case that was made to me by many of our people and clergy.

“The fact is people are very attached to their local churches and have expressed a wish in many places to keep them.”

Public meetings were attended by more than 7,000 parishioners during the course of the consultation, launched in 2015.

In a pastoral letter read at masses across the Borders Mr Cushley said that although it was likely that some clusters would be merged in terms of administration, plans going forward now included keeping church buildings that are already in use open as long as they are “affordable and wished”.

However, he conceded: “The time may well come in the future when not every church or chapel can expect Sunday mass to be celebrated in it every week.”

Though details of Mr Cushley’s plans are yet to be finalised, he said he wanted to issue the letter to keep parishioners in the loop.

Final decisions are expected to be taken over the next few months.