WORSHIPPERS at a Wirral church controversially shut by Catholic authorities, have won an historic ruling from the Vatican that the closure order was “null and void”.
Ss Peter and Paul’s church in New Brighton – known as the “Dome of Home” because it is visible to sailors in Liverpool Bay – was shut in 2008, despite protests from its parishioners.
The Diocese of Shrewsbury had insisted the church was too expensive to operate and moved services to the Anglican All Saints – a step which angered many worshippers.
Campaign group SOUL (Save Our Unique Landmark) was set up to press the diocese to retain the 1930s Grade II listed building.
Through specialist solicitors BBH, based in Eastham, they took their appeal to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy and in a ruling, believed to be historic for the church, won their case.
Anthony McKeever, partner at BBH Solicitors, said the Diocese of Shrewsbury “lost in no uncertain terms”. He said the response from the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican upheld their appeal against the decree by the Diocese of Shrewsbury to close Ss Peter and Paul’s church.
Mr McKeever said that, in August 2008, the Diocesan solicitors, Hague & Lambert, Manchester, wrote stating that “our clients reiterate that they will be bound by the decision of the Congregation in Rome”.
Mr McKeever said: “The decision of the Vatican was unequivocal, and we will now be doing everything we can to ensure the Diocese stands by its agreement to be bound by the decision.
“The Diocese may have ticked all the boxes procedurally, but their actions were in fundamental breach of canon law and this decree for closure is most certainly null and void.”
But Fr John Joyce, spokesman for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, said they had received the communication of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy “confirming that the procedures for closing the church were carried out correctly”.