Thursday, August 30, 2012

Historic church to re-open after religious order is blessed with bargain price

IT has no pews yet for the faithful and no altar to kneel before.

But a historic 19th-Century church that has lain empty for the past six years is to re-open for worship after it was sold to a religious order for just €700,000.

Described as a "special architectural jewel", the Church of the Sacred Heart at the Crescent in Limerick city was valued at more than €4m when the site was last on the market in 2006. 

Back then, there were plans to turn it into a leisure centre and bar.

Now a Roman Catholic religious order with links across Europe and America has purchased 
the church for a fraction of that price.

"We have signed a mortgage, and with local support we have bought this church for €700,000," said Canon Wulfran Lebocq (38), of the Institute of Christ the King.

"We have no pews and no altar yet but hopefully we will be open to say Mass before Christmas," Canon Lebocq told the Irish Independent.

The protected 25,000-square-foot building comes with a living area and enclosed garden in the heart of Limerick city.

A native of Burgundy in France, Canon Lebocq has lived in Co Limerick since 2010 after visiting the city on holiday.

The institute has been operating in the diocese of Limerick since 2009 and celebrates the Latin Mass every Sunday at St Patrick's Church in the city.

Canon Lebocq said work would start immediately on repairs to the roof of the newly purchased church, which would be administered by two priests and two seminarians.

The church had previously been purchased for €4m in March 2006 by the late Galway developer John O'Dolan, whose plans for the site had included a leisure centre and bar.

Founded in 1990, the Institute of Christ the King is a Roman Catholic society with 64 priests who work all over the world, and traditionally celebrates the Mass in Latin. 

Its founder, Msgr Gilles Wach, was ordained to the priesthood by Pope John Paul.

Its mother-house and international seminary is based in Florence, Italy, where 80 seminarians are training for the priesthood -- among them several Irish vocations.

The community has missions in Gabon, Africa and also in the US, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Sweden.

Canon Lebocq said he was confident that their community would be welcomed by the people of Limerick, who will get a chance to have a look inside the building when they temporarily open its doors on September 1.

"That will be just for a view but hopefully we'll have our first Mass there before Christmas," he said.

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