The historic church of St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs in Preston has been entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

It is the second church in the town to be handed over to the institute, which is dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass.

In his homily Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said this was a “fresh chapter” in the life of the church.

“It is not a break with the past, but this wonderful church has been given a new lease of life, and so remains a house of prayer reminding all Catholics of the wonderful and inspiring legacy of the Lancashire martyrs,” he said.

“The decor and beauty of our church buildings, such as the one we are in today, are intended to assist us raise our hearts and minds to the One who is the source of all order and beauty in the universe, the Lord God almighty,” the bishop said. “This splendid, iconic church, so dear to so many past and present Preston generations of Catholics, will still fulfil its mission through its cycle of liturgical and devotional life of leading the faithful to the springs of living water, promised us by Christ.”

The grade II-listed church will become a shrine to the English Martyrs and will be open every day. It remains part of St John XXIII parish and one of its priests will celebrate an Ordinary Form Mass in the church each Saturday evening, at least for the next 12 months.

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