THREE of Huddersfield's Catholic churches are to shut.
St James The Great in New Hey Road, Oakes, will shut later this year - after the closure of St Brigid's in Lowergate, Paddock, and St Bernadette's at Bradley.
The shock news was confirmed by the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche.
He announced the closures as part of a radical plan to reduce the existing six Catholic parishes in Huddersfield to just two.
The news will stun many churchgoers, although it had been expected at least one church could close.
Dwindling numbers of priests and worshippers were behind the major review by the Catholic Diocese of Leeds.
The review has taken three years and the findings were announced at services on Sunday.
Some churches have already closed in Bradford and now the three in Huddersfield will shut their doors.
The Bishop described the moves as "difficult decisions" but said he hoped it would re-invigorate the Catholic Church in the Huddersfield area.
"I have decided there should be a new parish to serve the northern urban areas of Huddersfield. It will have three churches.
"The central church will be St Patrick's, the church of the Holy Family in Slaithwaite will serve the western area and the church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sheepridge will serve the eastern area.
"During the course of the summer the church of St Brigid and the chapel of St Bernadette will close.
"At a later date the church of St James will also close, but for the time being will remain open. I am aware that a considerable sum of money has been raised with a view to establishing a new church of St Brigid's and it will be necessary for those who have raised the money to discuss how best to deal with this fund.
"I have decided a new parish shall be established to serve the southern area of Huddersfield. This will have two churches - St Joseph's at Aspley and English Martyrs at Dalton.
"The two priests assigned to this parish will also celebrate Sunday Masses at St Paul's, Shepley, and St Bartholomew's, Meltham".
Deanery officials will now work with the various parish priests to plan for the shutdowns and changes.
Bishop Roche confirmed that the St Bernadette's chapel in Keldregate, will be taken over by Catholic Care to consider using as a community centre.
He told worshippers: "I appreciate that what I have just outlined will cause some sadness and pain, mixed emotions.
"You have shown great loyalty and love for your present parish and churches and, indeed, for the priests, who have been able to live more closely to you in your communities.
"At the same time, however, I am aware that you have also shown great courage in looking squarely at the present realities.
"Our times are changing and they confront us with new challenges which we must take seriously and responsibly if we are to lay firm foundations for the next period of the church's life".