A CLOSURE threat hanging over several Borders churches has been lifted this week.

A two-year-long consultation review was conducted by the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh into the viability of the current number of Catholic churches across the Borders, Stirlingshire, Fife and the Lothians.

And it was expected that several of the 11 churches in the Borders would be affected by the future plans.

But this week Archbishop Leo Cushley dropped the draft closure proposals.

His announcement follows almost 120 meetings across the Archdiocese attended by over 7,000 parishioners.

The Archbishop said: “If you choose to consult with parishioners and priests, then you have to listen to what they are saying and, in this instance, I was happy to be persuaded by the case that was made to me by many of our people and clergy.

“The fact is, people are very attached to their local churches and have expressed a wish in many places to keep them.”

There are currently 11 Catholic churches in the Scottish Borders - in Galashiels, Selkirk, Melrose, Peebles, Innerleithen, Earlston, Hawick, Kelso, Jedburgh, Duns and Eyemouth.

Although there will be no closures following the consultation, there are plans to merge some of the 103 parishes which are spread across the Archdiocese.

While exact details of the Archbishop Cushley’s plan won’t be finalised for another few months, he said he wanted to issue his pastoral letter in order to keep parishioners updated.

The likelihood is that any outcome will see the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh have fewer parishes but with many retaining a number of their present churches, as well as other facilities.

The Archbishop added: "The first thing that I picked up from the meetings and I attended, the reports, and subsequent meetings with the clergy too, was the attachment of many, though not all, to their local churches.

"The second thing, though, that consistently came through was the willingness of priests and people to pool limited resources at a local level into larger, more sustainable Catholic parishes that can better evangelise their communities – this includes a willingness to merge existing parishes.

"I would like to thank the thousands of parishioners who have participated so intelligently, enthusiastically and prayerfully in the decision making process over the past two years,” said the Archbishop.

"Let us continue to go forward together as we attempt to bring the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the people in our part of Scotland.”

It is expected that final decisions will be taken in the next few months following a final consultation with the Archdiocesan Council of Priests.