Protest bid to save church from axe

St Paul's RC Church in Muirhouse is to close after more than 40 years as debts soar. Picture: LISA FERGUSON

St Paul's RC Church in Muirhouse is to close after more than 40 years as debts soar. Picture: LISA FERGUSON

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Worshippers are set to light candles and display placards during a silent protest to save their under-threat church.

St Paul’s RC Church, which is seen as a community hub in Muirhouse, is to close tonight after more than 40 years amid claims of dwindling congregations, soaring debts and a shortage of priests.

But campaigners have challenged the church’s move and hope their last-ditch protest will force a rethink.

Protesters will demonstrate “silently and peacefully” outside the church while St Paul’s – which once featured on Songs of Praise – holds its final thanksgiving Mass.

They will drape banners on the railings covered in slogans such as “Save St Paul’s”, while children have also made 
posters.

Lorraine McTigue, 41, who has been attending the church since she was a child, said she wanted to see as many people as possible join the protest.

“We are hoping to raise awareness and get them to think again,” she said. “Hopefully the church won’t close.

“After months of campaigning and letter writing we have not had a sufficient or acceptable response from the Archdiocese, who have now organised a thanksgiving Mass as a gesture to mark the closure.

“Our response has been to set up a silent protest which will take place outside the church from 6.15pm.”

The parishioners have set out their concerns in a letter to Leo Cushley, the 
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

In it they have asked why the parish debt of £284,000 is so high amid claims it stood at £75,000 in July 1994.

They have also demanded an “itemised breakdown of how the debt accrued” and want to know how donations to the church were used.

The group disputes claims that the congregation is falling, and says the Polish community has been “totally 
disregarded”.

Parishioners have also insisted they are “eager and willing” to take on more 
responsibilities to support St Paul’s, including work to the fabric of the church.

Under the plans, the 80-strong congregation will join that of St Margaret’s Church in Davidson’s Mains.

The Archdiocese said the building’s future had not been decided, but that it was unlikely to have a religious function.

A spokesman said: “Everybody is sad about the closure of St Paul’s, but the reality is that the best option is for people to attend Mass at the next nearest Catholic church which is only a four-minute drive from Muirhouse.”

But parishioners said this was “cold comfort” to elderly people who don’t drive and struggle to walk.