Disquiet at traditionalist takeover of English parish

Parishioners at an English church say they are being driven out by a traditionalist religious order.

In June, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth assigned St Mary’s, Gosport, to the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

Since then, parishioners say people are required to kneel to receive Communion and women are asked to cover their heads at Mass.

Dr Amanda Field, a convert to Catholicism, says she has stopped attending the church after six years.

“We used to have something really special here. The church was packed; people had to stand in the porch.

“But since the friars came we’ve been plunged back into the days before Vatican II,” said Dr Field.

Jean Watson, who has been serving the parish as a catechist and music-leader for 30 years, also described a “reversion” since the friars’ arrival.

“I was a child in the parish before Vatican II and it wasn’t even like this then,” said Mrs Watson.

There have also been objections to the use of some Latin at Sunday Masses.

A parishioner said she has considered leaving because of the changes.

The parishioner said: “I have been going to this church for years and these changes aren’t wanted. Part of the service is in Latin which I don’t like.”

“It seems the Bishop of Portsmouth does what he likes without thinking of the congregation.

“I know some of the older members of the church like the changes because it is what they grew up with. But as a younger member, I don’t like it.”

The Franciscans of the Immaculate attracted controversy in 2013 when Pope Francis dissolved its general council and forbade the friars to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form without permission.

However the Mass is celebrated in the old rite six days a week at St Mary’s.

A statement from Portsmouth diocese said it is not unusual in a Catholic diocese for a bishop to ask a religious order to provide pastoral ministry.

Bishop Philip Egan said: “The friars will continue to ensure St Mary’s is open for prayer, and will build on the wonderful evangelisation in which the parish is already engaged.”


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