Seminaries in Great Britain Undergoing Thorough Revision

Closures and Radical Changes Loom

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LONDON, MAY 30, 2002 ( The Catholic seminaries serving the United Kingdom could be closed or radically changed as a result of an extensive review of the institutions.

Four of the seminaries are in the United Kingdom and three are abroad. Scotland is also discussing the future of its centers for priestly formation.

A commission appointed by the bishops´ conference of England and Wales has just concluded a six-month, in-depth study of priestly formation, in order to improve seminarians´ training in the future.

The commission carried out a survey of seminaries from September to February. A questionnaire was sent to bishops, seminary rectors, professors, seminarians and vocation directors with questions on the constitution, life and work of seminaries.

The results of the research were included in a report given to bishops, who discussed it Monday.

In a statement issued after the study of the report, the bishops stressed the desire of the Catholic Church of England and Wales «to recognize the possibilities for renewal and hope.»

The episcopal conference analyzed «the diversity within our present seminary system» and «the variety of needs the seminaries are required to address in the formation of priests for our dioceses,» the statement explained.

«The bishops´ conference now seeks to build on the heritage of the past to provide creative opportunities for the future,» the episcopal statement added.

The bishops also agreed to two stages of further discussion.

«Firstly, the archbishops of Liverpool and Birmingham will bring together the bishops and those responsible for formation in the colleges at Oscott and Ushaw,» the statement said. «They will discuss the specific qualities of these colleges, with a view to the strengths of these institutions being brought into the wider service of all our dioceses.»

«At the same time, the archbishops of Westminster and Southwark will convene a similar meeting concerning the colleges at Wonersh and Allen Hall. It is intended that these meetings will take place before» the bishops´ meeting in November, the statement added. «As a second stage, these two groups will then consider plans for the future.»

Regarding the commission´s recommendations for the pontifical colleges in Spain and Rome, the bishops decided that the president of the conference and the implementation group should enter into discussions with the Holy See, the statement continued.

«The overall responsibility for carrying this process forward will rest with the five archbishops of England and Wales, who will act as the implementation group on behalf of the conference,» the bishops reported.

The Scottish episcopal conference has also decided that the seminaries under its jurisdiction should be thoroughly revised. Seminary rectors and vice rectors have been invited to next month´s meeting of the episcopal conference, to discuss the future of seminaries.

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