Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said that this was a 'fresh chapter' in the life of the church

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 (ICKSP).

This is the second church in Preston to be handed over to the ICKSP, which focuses on holding the Mass in the Extraordinary form, and on restoring historic church buildings.

In his homily at the Pontifical Mass last Sunday Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said that 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 décor 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 arrangement will enable the Grade II listed church to be open every day, and become a shrine to the English Martyrs. The English Martyrs church 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.

Three years ago the ICKSP took responsibility for the Grade I listed St Walburge’s church in Preston. A year ago the diocese gave St Ignatius’ church in Preston to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to become the Cathedral for the new Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain.

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was founded in 1990 in Gabon. Africa, by Mgr Gilles Wach, its prior general, who attended the Mass on Sunday, and Philippe Mora, rector of the seminary.