ANGRY parishioners have written to The Vatican, the home of the Pope, to seek legal advice over the shock closure of their Catholic church.
Devastated worshippers were left in tears after being told on Sunday that St Anthony’s Catholic Church, in Fairfield Road, Fletton, Peterborough will close after this Sunday’s mass because it has been declared structurally unsafe.
The church has held christenings, communions, weddings and funerals for generations of the city’s Italian community but now the tight-knit congregation has vowed to fight back.
They have composed a heartfelt letter which expresses their fears that they would not be able to build a new church to host Italian services and they had been kept in the dark until the last moment by the church authorities.
Carlo Broccoli, of Glebe Road, Fletton, a long-term campaigner for St Anthony’s Church wrote the letter.
Mr Broccoli, who came to Peterborough in 1951, said: “The appeal requests the assistance of Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, who is a member of the same congregation of priests, the Scalabrini Fathers, who staffed St Anthony’s parish.
“As a young priest in Italy Fr Velasio was taught by Fr Anacleto Rocco, who was for many years the parish priest of St Anthony’s in Peterborough, and as the archbishop has spoken with great affection of his former mentor, we believe he will assist us in keeping alive Fr Rocco’s hard work.
“The archbishop is also one of the world’s leading experts in canon law, the church’s law, and is a member of the Apostolic Signatura, which is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church.”
He added: “We are seeking his legal expertise to ensure that we can keep our parish and that the correct procedures of law in suppressing a parish have not been abused.
“The Catholic Church teaches we have a right to retain our spiritual patrimony and to worship in our native language and while we accept the generous offer of Fr David Jennings at All Soul’s to use his parish, our fears are that after a few months Mass and the Sacraments in Italian will be abolished like in Cambridge.”
Fletton councillor Lucia Serluca said she and Peterborough City Council leader councillor Marco Cereste were writing to the Bishop of East Anglia to highlight the community’s concerns and apply for permission to build a new church.
She said: “While I applaud the community for writing to the Vatican, I would also urge them to write to the Bishop of East Anglia as he is the first port of call.
“Under canon law anyone wanting to build a church must first get his blessing as he is the decision maker on spiritual matters.”