Appeal to Pope over London Colney pastoral centre

CAMPAIGNERS determined to save the All Saints Pastoral Centre in London Colney from the clutches of developers have written to the Pope, imploring him to intervene in the sale.

The Save All Saints (SAS) Committee has asked the head of the Catholic church to listen to members’ “humble plea on behalf of the community” to encourage centre owners, Westminster Diocese, to rescind the sell-off.

It is believed that the organisation has sold the iconic and historic religious centre to developers for more than �8 million.

The letter to Pope Benedict XVI points out that the centre was built in the 1920s for the All Saints Sisters, an Anglican order of nuns. In 1974 it was sold to the diocese with an agreed covenant stating any future sale would be to a purchaser who would ensure educational and religious continuity.

According to SAS, the diocese has failed to be pro-active in allowing the centre to flourish spiritually and economically. The diocese has previously blamed the “challenging” economic climate for forcing it to sell the 60-acre site.

The letter accuses the diocese of accepting a deal for short-term gain at the expense of long-term spiritual, practical and economic benefits in keeping with the aims of the Catholic church and the spirit of last year’s papal visit to England.

It adds: “Here is an example of the Westminster Diocese not only failing to practice what it preaches but also ignoring the essence of your message.”

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SAS is also annoyed the diocese snubbed one of the offers, dubbed the pastoral village bid, which would have provided for the local community and included a retirement provision for priests.

The committee said that instead of “acting as a beacon”, the diocese had instead accepted a higher bid from a property developer and it was feared the unnamed buyer would not keep the centre in the spirit of the original covenant.

SAS spokesman Peter Baker said the community hoped for a change of heart by the trustees of the diocese, particularly if the Vatican intervened.

The Rt Rev John Arnold, auxiliary Bishop in Westminster, said that while change was never easy, All Saints did not meet the pastoral needs of the organisation.

He added: “The clergy of the diocese have, for some time, been of the opinion that the upkeep and renovation of the Centre was not a priority. The reality has been that few priests have used it for their ministry and the number of diocesan events held there has been minimal.”

A spokesman for the diocese added that there was “no truth” in allegations about the site being sold to a developer with links to an online poker site.

Several sources contacted the Herts Advertiser earlier this month claiming the buyer had ties to

The spokesman added that once the legal side of the sale had been finalised information about the buyer would be released to the public, “possibly within the next few weeks.”