WORSHIP is to end at Addingham’s Catholic church.

The congregation of Our Lady and English Martyrs found out the news when a letter from the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Marcus Stock, was read out on Sunday, June 2.

In it, Bishop Marcus says that Mass will no longer be celebrated at the church after Sunday, June 30 due to a lack of available priests.

His letter, read by Acting Parish Priest Father Kevin Driver, goes on to state that: “Father Driver will be taking up an important pastoral appointment following the retirement of the current office holder...will commence his appointment at the beginning of July and, due to his future pastoral commitments, will not thereafter be available to celebrate Mass in Addingham.

“As a consequence, after June 30, 2019 Mass will no longer be celebrated at Our Lady and English Martyrs church. It is for this reason that I propose to canonically amalgamate Our Lady and English Martyrs Church with the parish of Sacred Heart in nearby Ilkley, in order to provide for the future spiritual care of those currently attending both churches.”

The news has caused upset amongst the parishioners. One, John Lynott, said: “The church has been serving the Catholic people of Addingham for more than 80 years.

“We have a healthy congregation of 60-plus or more at Sunday service. The closure of the church to Mass will probably mean the end of this community as a group of worshippers, many of whom are elderly and who do not drive.

“There is much anger. There are Roman Catholic parishes in Ilkley, Silsden and Skipton. Can it be too much to ask that a rota can be set up for a parish priest to come over to Addingham, possibly on a Saturday evening or lunchtime, to say Mass and preserve this community?”

The Diocese of Leeds said the decision had been a difficult one. A spokesperson said: “Already over the past year several of our priests have died before retirement, and others have had to take early retirement or reduced responsibilities through ill health.

“Decisions like this are never taken lightly; nor without a great deal of thought and knowledge of the area and of what other Catholic churches and Masses are available nearby. Our communities make provision for people who are elderly, infirm or without their own transport – and this will be especially true in the case of Sacred Heart, Ilkley, which is less than three miles from Addingham.” They added that it was too early to say what would happen to the church, which dates back to 1928, and the more modern presbytery.