By Alex Cosgrave Priests in the Leeds and Nottingham dioceses have surprised their bishops by rejectin* by a substantial majority plans to split the diocese and form a new ecclesiastical area embracing South Yorkshire, South Humberside and the High Peak District of Derbyshire.
At a meeting in Sheffield last week 51 priests voted against the plans put forward by Bishop Wheeler and Bishop Moverley. Only 14 voted in favour of the proposals while 29 voted in favour with reservations.
Rejection of the plans ob viously caught the bishops unawares. They had already arranged a meeting with Archbishop Bruno Heim, the Apostolic Delegate, to discuss liaison with the Vatican and procedural matters relating to the creation of the new diocese.
The meeting with Archbishop Heim went ahead, but liaison with Rome will now have to be postponed while plans to divide the diocese are rethought.
Speaking after the meeting, Bishop Wheeler said it had been felt for many years that there should be a new diocese in South Yorkshire but that it was clear from the voting that the present proposals did not satisfy the majority of those who would be involved.
"Accordingly, it is against the mind of the Bishop of Nottingham, Bishop Moverley and myself to proceed therewith. Our sole desire is to improve pastoral potentialities, and this will call for a new investigation at a deeper level among all those concerned over a long period." Many of the priests rejected the proposals because they felt that the High Peak district of Derbyshire, which would have been incorporated' in a new diocese of Halam and Axholme with Sheffield as its Episcopal See, had little connection with Sheffield.
They felt that most people in the area had more connection with Manchester, where they shopped, worked and went for recreation.
The priests also felt that the connection between South Humberside and South Yorkshire did not seem sufficiently established, It is also believed that some priests rejected the proposals because it was not made clear who would be the bishop of any new diocese.