The owners of St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Fletton which serves the Italian community have said it will be closed immediately due to safety concerns. A local councillor and the Leader of Peterborough City Council, both of Italian descent, speak to the BBC about the issue.
1: Lucia Serluca Peterborough City Fletton Councillor at 07:22 on Wednesday 11th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The interviewer is Paul Stainton.
PS: A church in Fletton is being forced to close after it was deemed structurally unsafe. St Anthony’s Catholic Church on Fairfield Road will hold its last service in the current building this coming Sunday. But plans are already afoot to find a new home for the congregation. Fletton Councillor Lucia Serluca joins us on the line. Good morning.
LS: Good morning Paul.
PS: This is really sad news, isn’t it? The church has been part of the Italian community for almost half a century. What have the local residents had to say?
LS: Well obviously everybody is completely devastated. As you said it’s been a part of Peterborough for over fifty years, so .. It’s a place of worship. It’s a place where people can go and pray in silence, and ask for forgiveness, and it’s a culture thing as well to the Italian Catholics, so that are completely devastated at the news.
PS: When did you find out that the building had been deemed unsafe?
LS: Well I went into work on Monday, and because I work with my parents and my parents go to church, and when I walked in through the door on Monday morning my Dad just said Oh my God the church is closing. And that’s how I found out.
PS: What’s wrong with the building?
LS: Apparently a structural … it’s something to do with the structure, I mean I don’t exactly know where the problem lies, but the structure isn’t safe and it’s obviously not safe to carry on in its current state.
PS: Yes. And it can’t be fixed?
LS: Well that’s what I’m speaking to them about at the moment. But it doesn’t look as if it can be saved, but obviously we just need to look to the future and see what we can put in place next.
PS: Yes. And how’s that going? What are you looking at?
LS: Well as Marco had stated in the paper we are trying to look at around the Fleet complex. there’s some land around there, so I know that Councillor Cereste is speaking to the planning department to see what we can do over there, and if we can also extend the lease.
PS: So this Sunday’s going to be a very sad day for a while, until you find somewhere else to go. How quickly can you theoretically set up a new church somewhere?
LS: What I do know is that the church down Park Road have kindly told the congregation that at nine thirty there will be an Italian Mass read every Sunday. So obviously the worshippers that go to Fairfield Road are very very welcome over at the Catholic Park Road church. Father David has actually set all that up already, and that will be for the time being until we can look to see what the future lies ahead.
PS: Yes. He’s a good old boy David isn’t he? Eh? He’s a good old boy.
LS: Absolutely. He’s absolutely fantastic. He really has .. you know, to accommodate nine thirty Mass he had to move a lot of things. Because I don’t know whether you go to Mass at Park Road but I’ve been a few times as well, and that church is absolutely heaving every Sunday. So for him to do that for us is overwhelming really, and a lot of gratitude goes to him.
PS: He’s a lovely man. He’s been on the show many times, Father David Jennings. We love having him on. Well hopefully there’ll be a happy end to the story. Any sort of timescales, do you think, before you can get the new church in place?
LS: Unfortunately you know how these things go. They do .. they will take a little bit of time, but as Councillor Cereste has actually said we’re setting up a community interest group for the church, and we will just take it from there, and move it forward as quickly as possible.
PS: Lucia thank you for coming on this morning ..
LS: Thank you very much for talking to me. I do appreciate it. And everybody, come to church Sunday morning. It will be a massive celebration, it really will be ..
2: Marco Cereste Peterborough City Fletton Councillor and Leader of Peterborough City Council at 08:24 on Thursday 12th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The interviewer is Paul Stainton.
PS: It’s hoped a new church for the Italian community can be buit after we learned yesterday that St Anthony’s Catholic Church has to be shut down. The building on Fairfield Road in Fletton has been assessed as structurally unsound. Members of the large and loyal congregation were devastated yesterday. (TAPE) (VOXPOP)
ONE. We are just mad about it. Where are we going to go? Why the Father s Scalabrini didn’t come here long time ago and explain to us the church wasn’t safe? We could have done something about it. I’ve got a son, he’s a plumber, another one’s got a son that is a builder. We could have put it safe.
TWO: I’ve come here all my life, since I was a kid, and sad to go.
THREE: This church as Father David said belongs to us. We put a lot of effort on it. And what they did to us is really really bad. This is our community. We are all .. we’ve been here since nineteen fifty one. And we work, we stay with the community. We have been good people to the community. And now all of a sudden they shut the church. (LIVE)
PS: A real strength of feeling on Peterborough Breakfast Show yesterday. We were there live with Jospeh Hall. Marco Cereste is Leader of the City Council of course, and Peterborough’s Italian community. Morning Marco.
MC: Hi. Good morning Paul.
PS: We heard the strength of feeling yesterday from all the people that congregated, just heard the radio, and came along to have their say. It really is an important part, a dedicated place of worship, for the Italian community, isn’t it?
MC: Well yes, absolutely. It’s like having your heart ripped out.
PS: And the problem with it is structural. It’s owned by, is it right, the Scalbrini Fathers? Who are they?
MC: Yes. But we paid for it.
PS: Yes. Who are the Scalabrini Fathers?
MC: They are a very good Order of Italian Priests who follow the immigrant communities round the world, and minister to their spiritual needs. But they closed Gladstone Street about ten, twelve years ago, for their own reasons, and took the money, spent it elsewhere, and now they’ve closed Fairfield Road. And we now need to convince them that they need to reinvest that money in Peterborough, and give it back to the people who gave it to them in the first place. I’m old enough to have come over with the first wave of Italian immigrants. I remember when my father went to the same sale to buy the Fairfield Road church, and the Priest was there. And he said to my dad, oh well, don’t buy it, because we’re going to buy it with the money that we’ve raised from the community to build, you know, to have a church for the community. And this is the story. We’ve all contributed to this in one way or another. These properties were ours.
PS: So the Scalabrini Fathers have raised the money in the community, bought the church, and now they’re not reinvesting in it according to you?
MC: Well I’ve got to be completely fair and to say that they have not told us whether they’re going to or not. But for all that may happen is that they may turn round to say well when we sell the site we’ll give you the money to reprovide a new church. Because a new church is what we want. I shall be writing to the Bishop this week, asking permision for us to build ourselves a new church. And hopefully he and the Commission that decides will give us the consent to go ahead and provide a new Catholic church for the community. But, you know, it’ll be open to everybody. Let’s be clear about this. This is not .. this won’t be just an Italian church. It’ll be a church open to anybody that wants to use it. And everybody will be welcome. It will be a community church the same as our Fairfield Road one was.
PS: Where will you get the money from Marco?
MC: Well we’ll have to raise it, won’t we? (LAUGHS)
PS: So you’ll have to do it all over again?
MC: Yes. We start all over again. (COUGHS) We start all over again, and rely on the generosity of the community to buidl their own church. But of course this time we want to try and make sure that if we do build a new church the church belongs to the community, and can’t be just closed at somebody’s whim.
PS: Yes. We tried to get hold of the owners, the Scalabrini Fathers. We’ve not been able to contact them yet. We do hope to get them on BBC Cambridgeshire today, or on the show tomorrow, and get their take on it, and hopefully get some answers. Have you managed to talk to them? Or not.
MC: No. I haven’t. No. I mean there are things in there which belong to me personally, which clearly if they’re going to close the church I want back. You know, some very valuable religious pieces that are mine, belong to my family And I want them back. And of course the rest of the community feels the same. The things that .. you know, the important things that the community has bought or donated directly into the church, they want them back. They want to keep them for Peterborough, for our new church. As I said, I don’t want to speak badly of the Scalabrini. I’ve had nothing but respect and admiration for them, and it may very well be that they will do the honourable, or have already decided to do the honourable thing, and say right, OK, well we’ll sell the site for redevelopment, and we’ll give the money to the Italian community, to help them build a new church. And that’s the thing they should do. I’m going to try and get hold of them. But I haven’t been successful, I’m afraid. … Yes it’s a .. But can you do send me .. give me .. can .. may I ask you to just let me .. allow me to say one or two more words ..
PS: Of course.
MC: Just to the Italian community? Tell them I am writing to the Bishop. I’ve asked some of my friends now at the ICA to start organising meetings. And we’ll want to hold a major meeting for all of the Italian community who wants to come and talk and discuss how to take the church project forward at the beginning of September. So if people can just keep their eyes open for any notices, or announcements. So perhaps you’d be kind enough to allow me to come on the radio again ..
MC: ..to let people know that ..what’s happening.
PS: No problem at all. Marco Cereste talking about the closure of that church on Fairfield Road in Fletton. But he has a plan.