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Vatican joins fight to save PPH

first_imgThis would thus release the Capuchin Province so that they could devote their time and resources exclusively to their ministry.”A former Warden of Greyfriars, Revd Dr Tom Weinandy, who trebled student numbers during the 1990s, has agreed to head a new Governing Body that would oversee a revived Greyfriars.The battle over the future of Greyfriars has been ongoing since the Capuchins publically announced they were to close the Hall last October, citing a lack of money and a shortage of friars. Arrangements were made to move current students to Regent’s Park, another PPH, and for the Hall to continue as a friary. Since then, a number of plans to keep Greyfriars open to students have been drafted by Cookson and the group of fellows, but the Governing Body has continued with its plans to close at the end of June.Barry Hudd, Communications Officer for the Capuchin Order, said that the original decision of the Order stood, and that the plans to continue Greyfriars were infeasible.“We wanted to close Greyfriars and we are at liberty to do so,” he said. Referring to the plans for the fellows to completely take over running of the Hall, he stated that “we would not be allowed to enter into trusteeship of something we didn’t have total control over.” He recognised that the fellows were able to approach the University with plans to obtain a license for a new college, but said that the current licence “is in termination and beyond the point of no return.”Hudd said that when closure was being discussed in March 2007, the University had ruled out the possibility of a staggered closure over 3-4 years because the Hall would be left with unacceptably few students. They had also said that ‘mothballing’ the licence so that plans could be made to resume teaching was also not possible. He added, “I can assure you that the University wanted it closed as quickly as possible.”He sought to downplay the significance of the closure, saying, “We’re not talking about the closure of Oxford University. It’s 20 students.” The Apostolic Nuncio declined to comment, but the Archbishop of Birmingham has publically backed the plans to retain Greyfriars’ licence and secure a future for the PPH. In a statement, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols said, “I am anxious that every avenue be explored for continuing the use of Greyfriars’ licence, granted by Oxford University in 1957. I hope this can be done in a thorough manner before the date on which the licence is to be surrendered.”The Archbishop has also written to Greyfriars’ Governing Body several times to arrange meetings with fellows to discuss the continuation of the PPH. When asked why he thought the Governing Body was surrendering the licence, Peter Jennings, the Archbishop’s spokesman, said, “I wish we knew.”Hudd responded to the Archbishop by saying, “whilst we understand their sentiments, they have not been privy to the wider picture which has been the subject of months of discussion and negotiation between the Capuchins and the University.”Several leaders of the student body have also backed the final effort to keep Greyfriars open. Ellaine Gelman, JCR President from 2006-2007, wrote an open letter to the UK newspaper The Catholic Herald, saying that “my college of choice is closing and I am not going to watch it happen in silence.“Papal Nuncio was quoted as saying ‘it was madness to close Greyfriars’, and I agree,” Gelman continued.“Despite all of the given explanations, I simply can not understand why somebody would want to close an Oxford college that has provided a home and a place of study to so many students.”The current President, Jonathan Hamal, said he was looking forward to moving to Regent’s Park and was thankful for their cooperation, but also agreed that “there’s a definite support for continuing Greyfriars in some shape or form, and for finding out why the Hall closed in the first place, the reasons for which remain slightly ambiguous.”Sheridan Taylor, the current MCR President, said that the transition would be difficult. “It think lots of the students are pleased they are staying together, but moving from Greyfriars is a tremendous loss. Greyfriars is a special place. Losing the relationship with the friars will be hard,” she concluded. Leading Catholic figures including the Pope’s UK representative have entered the last minute fight to save Greyfriars Permanent Private Hall.Papal Nuncio Archbishop, Faustino Sainz Muñoz, and the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham have backed efforts to keep the PPH open with just weeks left before the 800-year-old friary is due to close to students.A group of fellows, led by Penny Cookson, Greyfriars’ Academic Administrator, circulated a document on Tuesday called ‘An urgent plea for Greyfriars Hall’ to members of the Capuchin Order and leading Catholic newspapers. It calls upon the Capuchin friars who own the Hall not to surrender the PPH’s licence at the end of June.The Capuchin Governing Body of Greyfriars is accused of consistently refusing to respond to questions about alternatives to closure not just from fellows and lecturers but also from “the Holy See, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, and the Archbishop of Birmingham.”The fellows claim that the Nuncio and Archbishop, along with Cardinal Walter Kasper, “expressed their strong disapproval at the possibility of Greyfriars closing and are totally supportive of the action we are taking to try to retain the licence and keep the Hall going” at a reception in Oxford on May 5.The Governing Body, which has ultimate control over Greyfriars, is also accused of going back on a promise made in March 2007 to “cooperate with the fellows during the transition should they wish to carry on the Hall outside the Friary.”Cookson and two other fellows set out plans in the letter to take in a new cohort of students in October 2009, with lecturers and fellows running the PPH. The Capuchins would retain the license for the Hall, but the document states that the fellows “would assume total financial responsibility for Greyfriars Hall. last_img read more