PLANS to split the Southwark archdiocese in two are to be discussed by clergy and laity in the archdiocese between now and May.
In a widespread consultation initiated by Archbishop Bowen, priests and people will consider a series of alternative proposals for dividing the archdiocese into smaller and more manageable units, as suggested in "Groundplan" a consultative document issued by the Bishops' Conference in 1974.
Diocesan clergy will hold two meetings this month, and among the plans they will discuss is a proposal to form the parishes of Kent into a separate diocese, leaving the London boroughs as a diocese on their own.
As such a division might leave the Kent parishes with financial problems, an alternative plan is to form a new diocese from the Kent parishes plus the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.
Early in April a pastoral letter from Archbishop Bowen will be read in all the parishes explaining the proposals and asking the laity for their views. The laity will be invited to fill in a questionnaire on the subject and to write to the Archbishop with their
Archbishop Bowen has stressed that no decisions have yet been made, that the proposals are only tentative guidelines for discussion, and that all views will be taken into consideration. Discussions have already taken place at deanery level.
By the end of May it is hoped that the consultative process will be cornplete, and firm proposals will then be drawn up. "Groundplan" in fact suggested that the Southwark archdiocese should be split into three. One diocese would comprise the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.
A second would be formed from the London boroughs of Kingstonupon-Thames, Merton, Richmondupon-Thames, Sutton and Wandsworth. The third diocese would be made up of the Kent parishes.
According to 1973 Mass attendance figures as quoted in "Groundplan," this would leave the first diocese with an estimated Catholic population of just over 80,000 while the second diocese would have about 44,000. The new Kent diocese, however, would have only a little under 30,000.