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Praise be - first phase of major building work at Oxford Oratory nears an end
THE first phase of a multi-million pound building project at Oxford’s largest Roman Catholic church is coming to an end.
A new building in the grounds of The Oxford Oratory will open in May to provide priests’ accommodation, a library and parish hall.
The existing parish hall has been extensively refubished and the space above the hall has been converted into a library.
The new building is linked to the hall and includes a kitchen, bar, parish office and five bedrooms.
The additional space will mean it can be used by more groups, meetings and events and it may be opened up for wider community use.
About 1,000 people attend mass at the Oratory – built in 1875 – every Sunday.
Fr Richard Duffield, who led the five-year fundraising campaign, said: “It’s all coming together. We are very excited about just being able to live our normal life in the new building, have more groups, more people in, and get our books on the shelves and accessible.”
He said: “We have just started a course for the whole of Oxford which is an introduction to the Catholic faith and we are getting between 70 and 80 people on a Saturday morning spilling out into the porter’s lodge.
“It’s impossible, so we plan to relaunch it once the building is finished.”
It is part of a £5m development project, of which £2m has been raised. Some £1.3m has gone on the new building.
Restoration has also been carried out within the church itself in the sanctuary, lady chapel and relic chapel with more to come.
No timeline has been set for the final phase of the work, which includes building a new chapel, baptistery and cloister. A start date will depend on funding and resources.
Fr Richard said: “It’s been nine months of some level of chaos, we need to get over that and see how we use the new building first of all.”
It is also trying to raise a further £450,000 to furnish the library with shelving and other equipment.
The new building will be blessed by Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, pictured below, over the summer at a date to be set.
The Oratory’s Father Richard Duffield has welcomed the appointment of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who named himself Pope Francis.
He said: “It is wonderful to have a Pope again and it is fantastic that we have got one so quickly.
“He seems to be a wonderful man and I am delighted that the first thing he did was to pray to Our Lady the Mother of Jesus for the whole church, in the Church of St Mary Major in Rome.
“The Catholic Church needs repairing and reforming, although that is nothing new.
“It is like a huge building – some parts need repair, some parts need maintaining and some need new build.
“There are things that need to be addressed, including the administration of the Church at its centre in Rome.
“The new Pope’s first priority will be to visit Latin America.
“I don’t think we will see him in this country any time soon.”