Salford, England -- 15 Catholic churches in the Salford diocese have been forced to close in lieu of the shortage of priests and falling congregations. While the decision upset congregants, officials said the closures were necessary as the church sought out its role in the changing society.
"We are asking ourselves what the purpose is of the church,” said the Reverent Terence Brian, the Bishop of Salford.
In the past 42 years, many of the priests in the area moved away, retired or died.
"Our society in general doesn't look at the idea of vocation (of a priest) as a good thing. Most of our hospitals are depending on nurses from abroad or else we would be in a terrible state,” said Brian.
The worshippers of many of the churches, however, were disheartened by the announcement. The oldest of the cathedrals, the Church of St Peter and St. Paul in Bolton was the first catholic church to open in Bolton after the Reformation, with its roots stretching back to 1794.
"The people here are quite upset,” said the priest of St. Paul, Father John McNamara. "Everything is in the hands of the bishop. All I know is it's closing. It's very, very sad."
Laura Latimer, who has worshipped at the church for 80 years, said when she first heard it was to close she felt a great deal of anger, but that had since turned to sadness.
"I have a great affinity for this church,” she said. "It has been good to me. I love it. It is so sad I can't tell anyone how sad I am."