By Simon Caldwell A FURIOUS row over the sale of Church land and property to one of the world's biggest arms manufacturers was finally settled when the Lancaster Diocese this week rejected an offer from British Aerospace.
The proposed sale of Holy Family Church, presbytery, and hall in Warton, Lancashire, to British Aerospace's Military Aircraft Division, which has a huge factory near to the village, emerged when Bishop John Brewer announced he was prepared to enter talks with the arms giant in exchange for discourse on the moral questions raised by its activities.
The issue has divided many Catholics in the diocese between those who either oppose the arms trade and those who either work within it, could see the benefits of the proposed development, or who had no strong moral objections to the bid.
It was the infighting which eventually caused the diocese to abandon negotiations with the company, which makes fighter-bomber aircraft including Tornados and Hawks, some of which are exported to countries with poor human and civil rights records like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
The decision to pull out of the sale was announced to the people of the diocese last weekend in a letter from Bishop Brewer. On Monday a joint statement was issued by BAe and the diocese to confirm that discussions on the morality of the arms trade were still continuing.
"The talks concerning the moral questions as well as the financial negotiations have been kept completely distinct," writes Bishop Brewer. "Both have been going on now for more than a year. "Dialogue on such sensitive matters demands much patience and confidentiality in order to create an atmosphere of trust. That trust is now firmly established and has led to a desire on the part of BAe and myself to continue our dialogue on the moral questions involved. "Nevertheless, both BAe and the Church have agreed not to pursue the sale of the Church property as originally proposed. We have come to this decision mutually in order to end uncertainty and to promote the unity of the Church, which has been damaged in the course of these discussions.
"I am aware that the project, had it gone ahead, would have brought many benefits to the local community. Many of you will, therefore, be dis appointed by my decision. I share your disappointment_ But the greater good of tinny must prevail." Bishop Brewer added: "I wish to reassure all those who work for BAe's Military Divi sion, like those who work for other industries involved in the manufacture of arms, that they are not compromised in this decision.
"Nevertheless, like all those committed to a faithful following of the Gospel, they should not turn a blind eye to those particular questions concerning the arms trade which are vigorously addressed by the Church."