HUNDREDS of residents have joined a campaign launched to save a church threatened with closure.
St Paul’s RC Church is seen as a community hub in Muirhouse, but dwindling congregations and soaring debts mean officials are keen to shut it down.
The Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, branded the church “an unhappy investment” which he said had eaten up hundreds of thousands of pounds in wasted cash since it was built in 1971.
In a letter to parishioners, he explained that the building urgently needed a new heating system, which would leave another sizeable bill on top of the current parish debt of £384,000.
He described how “various factors” had led officials to consider the church’s future, including a “dramatically smaller” Catholic population in the area compared with four decades ago.
But since his comments were made last month, more than 250 people have added their name to a petition calling for the Muirhouse Avenue church to be retained.
A Facebook page has also been set up – Save St Paul’s RC Church, Muirhouse, Edinburgh – where parishioners past and present have been expressing their sadness over the proposals.
Parishioner Pamela Hanlon, 50, of West Pilton, told of “happy memories” of the church, which she has attended for around 20 years, and said that to close it completely would be a “big mistake”. “I think what’s not been thought about is what it means to the community,” Ms Hanlon said.
“I understand the financial reasons for it, but I think what’s happened over the years is that instead of fixing the problems, they have patched them up.
“If we had known about it before we could have done some fundraising, but we’ve not been given the opportunity.”
Theresa McGlynn, 82, was one of the original parishioners when the church was first founded.
She said it would “break my heart” if it closed – but admitted she feared that the battle to save it would prove a losing one.
She said: “The church has been well used over the years but gradually, since they started knocking the houses down in this area, we have lost a lot of parishioners with them moving away and, of course, a lot of them have also gone to their eternal reward now.
“This church was built when Muirhouse was just being built and we feel we are losing our community.”
Community leader Robert Pearson, chairman for the Tenants and Residents In Muirhouse organisation, said the group was “deeply saddened” to hear of the proposed closure and was lending its weight to the bid to keep it open.
“It’s not just about a building, it’s more about people’s memories, their lives and much more,” he added.
“Closing St Paul’s Church would be a huge loss to our community and we intend to work with the church for the best outcome.”
The petition was presented to Most Reverend Cushley during a special meeting in the church yesterday.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said “no final decision had been made” on the building’s future.