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Public told Bishop’s spending is ‘separate’ to parish

By Evan Short

A public meeting held last night (Wednesday, November 11) to discuss the financial future of Holy Family Parish was told that spending on the renovation of the Bishop’s Somerton Road residence is a “separate issue” from the parish finances – even though he is officially the Parish Priest.
Two weeks ago the North Belfast News revealed that the parish was to begin a consultation over the future of three churches that make up Holy Family Parish – Holy Family, The Church of the Resurrection on the Cavehill Road and St Therese of Lisieux on the Somerton Road – and dealing with a £1.6 million debt.
The information came just weeks after it was alleged that Bishop Noel Treanor, who lives in the parish and holds the title of Parish Priest, spent an estimated £1 million renovating his residence on the Somerton Road. This spend on Lisbreen House was raised at last night’s meeting (Wednesday, November 12) where Parish Administrator Fr Paul Strain was responding to questions from some of the 250 people who packed the Church of the Resurrection Parish Hall on the Cavehill Road.
A number of people questioned if it was acceptable to spend that amount of money on the Bishop’s house given Holy Family’s £1.6 million debt and the fact the Church of the Resurrection has had to close because of its state of disrepair.
“Has Bishop Treanor been involved in this?” one man asked to loud applause. “We talk about getting rid of the church here (Church of the Resurrection) which is in a run down state yet we were spending an excessive amount of money on the Somerton Road on the Bishop’s residence while the presbytery beside it is in a run down state. How can he justify that?”
Fr Strain said it was a separate issue that he couldn’t comment on.
“This is the parish – the Bishop – and what he does is separate. We are responsible for our parish. It is our personal responsibility for our parish (and) for the buildings, the resources, and so on. We act as an independent parish within the Diocese (and) we get no money from other parishes or from the Diocese. The one connection is the solidarity fund where the parishes put in excess money and we take a loan from that and that is in effect where our loan is. But it is ourselves and it was initiated from this parish and not through the diocese.”
Parishioners were told that the five options outlined – from doing nothing to selling all the parish’s churches and building a new one – were only outline proposals and could be changed. They were also told the issue of the £1.6 million loan was not critical as the money is owed to the Diocese, and not private lenders.
The North Belfast News contacted the Diocese of Down and Connor but no one was available for comment.

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