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Two Catholic churches in Halifax are permanently closing their doors

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Two prominent Catholic churches in Halifax are permanently closing their doors.

Archbishop Brian Joseph Dunn made the decision to close Saint Theresa's Church on North Street and Saint Patrick's Church on Brunswick Street following recommendations from the parish leadership of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi Parish, according to a Monday news release from Aurea Sadi, a spokesperson for Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.

Sadi says finances, attendance, pastoral capacity, proximity to other churches, as well as the structural concerns of the buildings were all factors that led to the recommendations to close.

"In January 2024 the parish leadership began a process of consultation and prayer with parishioners to determine the future of the parish’s resources and their ability to best serve their communities," said Sadi in an email to CTV News Wednesday. "The recommendation to close Saint Patrick and Saint Theresa church buildings came as a result of this consultation process."

The statement from the archdiocese says letters from Dunn announcing the closures were read and distributed to the parish community at all masses over the weekend.

In the letters, the archbishop acknowledged the sadness these closures cause and "seeks to work with the parish leadership to focus on how to pastorally care for those immediately affected."

As far as when the churches will permanently close, the statement says Dunn will consult with the parish leadership to determine the appropriate time and place for final masses.

Saint Theresa Church has been temporarily closed since October 2023 due to high levels of mold inside the building.

"Since that time a variety of environmental and structural assessments have been done and found further structural issues," said Sadi.

The process of closing

The Code of Canon Law, the internal laws that govern the Catholic Church, states the bishop can close a church if there is grave cause.

However, he can only do so after consulting with those who may be affected.

Even though Saint Patrick's Church has heritage status, the statement says there are no specific steps that need to be taken to close its doors. However, if the property is sold, the buyer would need to manage the heritage regulations associated with the property.

Future of the buildings

The statement from the archdiocese says the future of the church buildings has yet to be determined.

"Parish leadership with the community and Archbishop Dunn will further discern and discuss the options that offer the most benefit for the parish," read the statement.

According to the archdiocese, a variety of options will be explored, including the possibility of selling one or both buildings. It adds there currently no inquiries about the sale of the property, and nothing is currently for sale.

If the buildings end up being sold, the proceeds would go to the parish of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, “less the normal diocesan assessment.”

Those with close connections to both churches say they're upset the decision to permanently close had to be made.

"As a fifth generation's person, thinking that I might be the last one, that’s really sad," said historian Blair Beed. “They’ve been trying to close this church for over 20-years and we’ve been trying to keep it open."

Beed says Saint Patrick's Church isn't only a place of worship, but a piece of history with many stories to tell.

“Nothing was lost in the Halifax explosion. The windows were replaced with duplicates of what had been there blown out in the explosion and they’re from Bavaria," he said.

"Inside is a bell that was cast in Ireland as a little project to help them over the potato famine to give them some work. There’s so many little ingredients inside, including the signatures of people in the tower from 1883 who just want to record the weather or that they rang the bell. There’s so much historical content in the building that the insurance company says they couldn’t replace it for its real value because no one would be able to create it again.”

Beed adds the price to do repairs would cost millions of dollars – money the church just doesn't have.

"Heritage doesn’t get a good riding in Halifax so having a heritage church makes it all that more difficult. I wish I could roll it to Quebec where the government and Quebec give me 80 per cent of the cost of restoration because of its cultural built heritage. We don’t have that kind of respect here.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.  

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