27 June 2021


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

As you know, Dom Charles will be retiring in August, after a long and fruitful ministry in St Edmund Bungay with St Thomas More Harleston. This has serious repercussions, not just for the parish of Bungay but also for the parish of St Benet’s with Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Gillingham.

I have been in conversation with the Abbot of Downside concerning the future pastoral care of the parish of Bungay and, after the enquiries that he has made amongst the English Benedictine Congregation, it is clear that he is unable to replace Dom Charles with a priest from the Congregation.

On behalf of theDownside Community, the Abbot has, therefore, asked that the parishes of Beccles and Bungay with the churches and other buildings should be absorbed into the Diocesan structure. This has been discussed with the Diocesan Trustees and they have agreed to the proposal.

This means that the Bishop will in future have full oversight of the parish and will appoint priests to carry out the pastoral and sacramental care of the people. The parishes will also be completely responsible for their buildings.

Dom Martin has requested the Abbot that he be allowed to remain as a Benedictine priest, working in the Diocese. He will therefore remain as Parish priest in Beccles. If the Diocese needs to move him to pastorally care for another parish at some time in the future, Fr Martin has generously agreed to do so.

When the present restrictions have been lifted towards the end of July, it would be important for a meeting to take place as quickly as possible between parish members of the Finance Committee and the Parish Pastoral team together with the Bishop and representatives from the Diocesan Finance Board to discuss the implications of all this.

I hope that it might be possible in the Autumn for the Diocese and parish to mark with a special Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the end of a very long association with the English Benedictines, which goes back to the seventeenth century.

Meanwhile, I would like to record the gratitude of the Diocese to Dom Charles for his ministry in the Diocese, both as the local Dean and as Vicar for Religious, and, of course, in particular in the parish of Bungay and the support he has given to the parish of Beccles. I ask your prayers for the parishes at this time and for guidance on those who are responsible for appointing a new parish priest for Bungay.

With prayerful good wishes,

Yours sincerely in Christ,

The Right Reverend Alan S Hopes,

Bishop of East Anglia

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